The Three Chinas

Guest Post by Thomas Fuller

The choices we make about energy, the environment and climate will be limited by The Three Chinas.

The Real China

1. One of the Chinas is very real and familiar. It has a population of 1.4 billion.

2. China is developing quickly, trying to do in 50 years what America did in 100. As a result, they have doubled their energy use since 2000, becoming the largest energy user in the world.

3. China’s energy use may well double again by 2020. (The figures in the report did not match reality, but their estimate of 7.5% annual growth looks fairly okay).

4. Coal currently provides 70% of China’s energy. That may drop to 65% by 2020. It may not.

5. If China doubles its energy use (to 200 quads) and 65% of it comes from coal, that will be 130 quadrillion BTUs generated from burning coal, in China, in 2020.

6. China’s coal plants are much dirtier than those used in the developed world.

The Second China


This very real China will be replicated by the natural growth of the human population to 8.5 billion by 2035, and 9.1 billion at its peak later this century. That’s more than the entire population of China. As many of them will actually be born in China, and many more will form part of our third ‘imaginary’ China, it is appropriate to limit the Second China to the size of the real one.

7. Most of these new humans will be born into developing countries.

8. But these developing countries are, in fact, developing now. Their energy use is increasing dramatically–if not as dramatically as China’s. The Second China will spring forth from countries whose energy use is growing by 3.3% per year.

9. And although their use of coal is not as intense as China’s, their reliance on fossil fuels is fairly close (Fig. 2)

The Third China

While China is developing quickly, so is the rest of the developing world. As countries develop, the people living in them get richer. They buy cars, appliances, computers, and begin to use more energy. Again, to avoid double counting (China will be one of the countries talked about, and many of the new middle class will consist of people not yet born), it is correct to think of this as about the size of the current China.

10. Two billion people may join the middle class by 2030.

11. By 2050, countries which are now developing quickly will be called ‘middle-income’ and may account for 60% of GDP.

12. Goldman Sachs believes that China’s per capita income will be $50,000 in 2050 (p.5), and that their per capita GDP will be $70,000. But they also project that Turkey and Mexico will have higher incomes per capita, and that Brazil will almost match China.

13. Mexico currently consumes 69 million BTUs per person per year (Table 1.8). Their average income is $14,000. If their incomes triple, so will their energy usage. The same is true for Indonesia, Turkey, the Philippines, China, India and more.

Discussion

I have written here frequently that I believe current estimates of future energy consumption are flawed. I hope the information provided above shows why.  As I have written before, extending current consumption and development trends over a short period of time shows a doubling and perhaps a tripling of energy use over the medium term. That could see global demand for energy reaching 2,000 quads per year by 2035.

I do not know what the sensitivity of the atmosphere is to a doubling of concentrations of CO2 is, and despite pronouncements from partisans on either side of that argument, I don’t think anybody else knows, either.

I do not know what cycles of earth, moon, sun and stars will combine to push or pull global temperatures one way or another, and despite pronouncements from partisans on either side, I don’t think anybody else knows, either.

Recent human history makes it fairly easy to contemplate economic growth and energy usage for the very near future. It is an order of magnitude easier than trying to analyse the factors that influence the climate.

We do not have to guess about the effects of massive coal consumption by developing countries–we have our own history to guide us, from London in 1952 to Manchester a century before, from burning rivers in Ohio to dead lakes nearby.

Commenters to my recent pieces asked why I characterise our situation as an energy crisis. I have tried to provide an answer here. I’m happy to discuss this with any and all. Because I think this is a conversation we can have without referring to magical numbers and thinking, pixie dust or moonbeams.

I personally think that this level of intense development will indeed have an effect on our climate, due not only to CO2, but also deforestation, aquifer depletion and other factors described ably by Roger Pielke Sr. But I don’t know how much and I don’t know what percentages to assign to each.

So let’s talk about energy and why what is described above signals a crisis–or not.

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152 Responses to The Three Chinas

  1. Zorro says:

    I have been travelling to China/Hong Kong for more than 24 years and the changes have been simply astounding. This development keeps the masses under control, but the coming energy price spike to come as growing Asian/Bric demand depletes the small cushion we currently enjoy will imperil stability in many , if not all parts of the world. I’m off to HK for two years in Dec, good luck to me I say! I will be watching developments with great interest.

  2. Stephen Brown says:

    One fact that you have not taken into account is China’s whole-hearted embrace of nuclear power. Daya Bay, see here for details ( http://www.nuctrans.org/Nuc_Trans/locations/daya-bay/daya-bay.html ) was just the first of many more such plants planned and even now under construction.
    China knows that the most viable option is nuclear power if it wants to provide for future growth. And that is just the route it has taken.
    China will soon become the world’s leader in nuclear power generation. The coal that they have will be saved for other uses.

  3. UK John says:

    Technical developments are just as hard to predict as anything else, nobody predicted The Internet, universal ownership of mobile phones, Television etc.

    But from what I see I can easily envisage human tools that use only a small fraction of the Energy that powers our current devices.

    Also if everything we built, our cities, houses, roads, captured energy from the sun then there is no energy problem, we just need the technology to do it and I can already see that this is going to be possible.

  4. DirkH says:

    Ok, somebody has to speak the magic word. Malthus. There, i did. (covers)

  5. Willis Eschenbach says:

    An excellent piece, Thomas. Perhaps this might help to put it into perspective:

    As you have pointed out above, the action is all in the developing world.

  6. P Walker says:

    Sorry , Thomas , but I can see no connection to coal use and burning rivers . Dead lakes maybe , but even that’s a stretch . Until the 70′s , bodies of water were convenient dumping grounds for all sorts of pollutants including sewerage . At that time , Ohio was one of the most heavily industrialized states in the Union and very few people cared about effluents . Modern coal fired facilities emit few pollutants despite the hysteria to the contrary coming from green groups .

  7. Chris Edwards says:

    So the answer for both sides is do not buy a thing from China, India, Mexico and save the planet, they cannot expand at that rate without our custom (and it would reduce unemployment in the west)

  8. lowercasefred says:

    All the projections seem based on the assumption that there will not be a population-reducing war. IMO a very optimistic assumption.

    The last 65 years of growth have been a direct result of the Pax Americana, and the Pax Americana has been a result of wealth derived from cheap energy and debt-based growth.

    The future will be very interesting indeed.

  9. James allison says:

    To provide balance the post should have mentioned that global technological developments will make burning coal for energy a thing of the past.

  10. HR says:

    Would it be fair to say that commentators have been making predictions of an energy crisis for 40years or more? These people no doubt based their predictions on sound numbers. What makes the present day doom mongers any better at predicting the future? It strikes me that what is always left out of these calculations is the resiliance and ingenuity of H. sapiens.

    On Willis’ graph in the first post does anybody have any comments on how productivity has shifted globally? Anybody have good links for a summary of globalisation of production, heavy industry etc. I’d like to be able to back up the follow statement. Most of the carbon increase in the developing world is still to produce products for consumption in the industrialized West.

    Finally I’ve always thought spreading greater wealth as a good thing. Since when did this become seen primarily as a problem? I’d prefer to support greater wealth in resourse poor regions and then deal with any unwelcome side affects afterwards rather than buy into the idea that the planet can’t afford to see these people access what we already have.

  11. Dennis Wingo says:

    The website http://www.world-nuclear.org shows China with 2800 nuclear plants by the year 2100.

    China has built a new city whose entire productive labor force will be engaged in building modular nuclear plants.

    The times, they are a changing.

  12. Doug in Seattle says:

    First the link between energy and environment is the canard that the environmental left wants us to believe.

    The true link is between energy and wealth. China gets it, India gets it. The US and Europe are following the false gods of the green movement and don’t get it.

    If, and when hydrocarbon fuels become scarcer and less economical in supplying the energy needed to maintain the level of comfort and wealth to which we aspire, humanity will find a cost effective replacement. We will have little choice but to do so, but this time is a long time forward – as in hundreds of years (peak oil is a scam).

    There is currently no shortage of hydrocarbon fuels. There exist many imposed bottlenecks in the supply chain, but these are self imposed – by those who seek to control the distribution of wealth.

  13. Phil Warnell says:

    Hi Thomas,

    I would agree that if our current sources of energy remain as they are, that in short order we will have what you call an energy crisis; would entail unavoidable impact on our environment, whether it be climate change, increased pollution levels or having natural habitats decimated. However I’m not one of those that trust the answers will be found in simply depending on existing technologies as through conservation, increased efficiencies and converting to other known energy sources.

    What I feel as being required is a total breakthrough in terms of science in fostering new technologies, such as in nuclear fusion, electrical storage, bio technology, long distance power transmission efficiency and sensible global plans for the reduction of urban sprawl. So the way to deal with the future is in first being confident that we have the ability to look forward to one, as to support a dramatic increase in relevant scientific research and technology, as to have us able to successfully meet these challenges. However the bottom line being the developed nations can’t just sit back and point their fingers at the rest of the world, yet rather understand they must lead the way in having it all to be realized.

    Regards,

    Phil

  14. (bitter, sarcastic, and jaundiced view…)

    One thing is omitted – the new middle class will use the most of the energy to watch sitcoms on 3D TVs in cozy environment with fridges for Cocas, air conds, and cars to buy cigarettes in nearby 100m newsstand (all generate heat to fulfill their aims).

    The world forgot what is its ultimate target so there will be not cosmic transport ships to colonize new worlds.

    The only solution left is Agent Orange sprayed over population centers what some dream of every night.

    Or… new inventions will be pull out from gov vaults which give us new cheap energy available for all and for free. But who believes in this scenario seriously? Me not.

    Regards

  15. John Kehr says:

    Going green is not going to provide the energy the future needs. Nuclear power is the only really reliable, plentiful source currently available. The safety concerns are primarily related to who has the material as most problems with earlier reactors were design flaws. The US Navy operates vast numbers of mobile reactors that are on and under the ocean that are mostly run by 19-22 year olds. They have done that for decades without safety issues.

    The current generation of reactors is impressive and developing them will only make them more so. It should even be possible for many countries to develop large energy industries and export their energy to countries that don’t want reactors. France (yes France) is already doing that. They will make a fortune in the future with that model. We should be all over it and ship energy to Canada and Mexico.

    John Kehr

  16. Michael Larkin says:

    Thomas,

    As my mother used to say: “Why worry? It might never happen.”

    My bet is that we are going to face all sorts of challenges in the 21st century, but that the worst will turn out to be things we haven’t even dreamt of yet.

    And don’t forget the obverse: the best will also be things we haven’t yet dreamt of.

    I’m not a bible basher, but as I grow older, I appreciate this more and more: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof.”

  17. Gary Pearse says:

    Thomas, you are a gifted writer to be sure but please don’t give energy consumption in quadrillions of BTUs. It is a bit annoying I believe for most of your readers and for the rest it is relatively meaningless, like saying a whole bunch. Probably tons of coal equivalent would be suitable if your intent is to tell us how mind boggling the numbers are. You have avoided measuring sealevel rise in olympic-sized swimming pools, calving glaciers is cubic Oxburghs and sea ice loss in numbers of Manngavins and the like, I’ll give you that. In all such cases there is a bit of intellectual dishonesty. We are talking about inappropriate differences in magnitude – measuring the sea in swimming pools, etc. A pound of coal is 8,000 to 13,000 BTUs. There 7000 grains in a pound so one grain is 1-2 BTUs. This practice is equivalent to measuring the rice crop in numbers of grains!!!

  18. Jeff Wiita says:

    Hi Anthony,

    This comment has nothing to do with the above article, but I do not know how else to communicate with you.

    This year, my daughter is in Earth Science (8th grade). About a month ago, she came home and told me that the teacher showed a video on man-made global warming by Bill Nye, The Science Guy. Bill is considered to be the science guru to kids.

    Last Thursday, we had parent/teacher conferences. I talked to the teacher about man-made global warming. She said that she was not suppose to interject politics or her bias in the debate. I asked her if she was going to show Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth?” She shook her head “no” and said, we wouldn’t do that.

    I then said that that was exactly what they did when they showed the video of Bill Nye, The Science Guy.

    I finally got around to checking some facts and this is what I found.

    Bill Nye is part of Repower America (Alliance for Climate Protection). Here is a short video.

    The founder and chairman of the Alliance is Al Gore.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alliance_for_Climate_Protection

    Bill Nye is acting as a surrogate for Al Gore in the public schools.

    This might be an interesting article for you to blog on.

    Keep Smiling ?
    Jeff Wiita

  19. Konrad says:

    Mr. Fuller,
    I do not believe there is any need for a population or energy crisis. I do see that some would like to inflate problems in these areas for the same agendas that were behind the failed AGW crisis. We will only have a crisis if we manufacture one by intentionally ignoring effective responses to population and energy issues that are within our present economic and technological capabilities.

    For population it is very obvious that the solution is wealth. Higher living standards lead to lower birth rates. This effect is seen globally. Many developed nations are now having trouble sustaining their populations without immigration. The solution to improved living standards is cheap energy. The developing world need all the cheap energy it can get ASAP.

    For energy the solution is truth. The planet has plenty of hydrocarbon fuel reserves, and seems to be abioticaly producing more all the time. We also have plenty of nuclear fuel in the form of thorium. The only way we are going to have an energy crisis is if we manufacture reasons to restrict the use of these fuel sources.

    The question is not “are we going to have an energy crisis?” but rather “do we want to manufacture an energy crisis?”. I do not believe we are going to have an energy crisis even though many people are working to manufacture one. My reasoning is that those who would seek to create an energy crisis are the same fellow travellers involved the AGW scam. As the global warming scam disappears, so will their reputations and influence.

  20. R. de Haan says:

    Yes we will be burning coal simply because it’s cheap and we have plenty of it but we also have the relative new option of shale gas for power generation.

    The available amounts are mind boggling.

    The only energy crises I see is man made.

  21. By the way China nuclear plants…

    See the pictures: http://nextbigfuture.com/2008/06/worlds-first-commercial-high.html

    And search the Next Big Future blog for “China” and “nuclear plants”. Very revealing.

    For example:

    1. China has 21.9 Gigawatts of Nuclear Power Under Construction and More Nuclear Plant Uprates
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/01/china-has-219-gigawatts-of-nuclear.html

    2. Japan Steel Work Increases Forecast of China Nuclear Plant Construction
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/09/japan-steel-work-increases-forecast-of.html
    The country may build about 22 reactors in the five years ending 2010 and 132 units thereafter (…)

    World Nuclear news has coverage of the Japan Steel boosted estimate and it relates to the prior target of 40 GW by 2020 by China which is now likely to be up to 86 GW or more.

    Regards

  22. And one more quote from the Nex Big Future blog:

    Carnival of Nuclear Energy 2 – china build, thorium and more
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/05/carnival-of-nuclear-energy-2-china.html

    Just a few years ago, the goal in China was to increase nuclear plant capacity from about 9 GWe to 40 GWe by 2020. The current plan will achieve that goal within the next five years and could hit a number closer to 80-120 GWe by 2020. The reactor construction and manufacturing enterprise will not suddenly stop at that level. As the construction continues, China could be operating 300-400 GWe of nuclear plant capacity by 2030. If history is any guide, that capacity should be operating at a capacity factor of 75-90%, displacing a tremendous quantity of fossil fuel consumption.

    Regards

  23. Carbone says:

    Our technological advancements will completely change the game. Nanotechnologies will see a massive surge by the end of this decade making solar power one of the cheaper (and later the cheapest) sources of energy. Also the projected rise of the per capita GDP pretty much tells the rest of the story.

  24. Enneagram says:

    Time to remind everybody:
    CO2 follows temperature, not the other way. Open a coke and you´ll see it: The more you have it in your warm hand the more gas will go out when you open it.
    CO2 is the transparent gas we all exhale (SOOT is black=Carbon dust) and plants breath with delight, to give us back what they exhale instead= Oxygen we breath in.
    CO2 is a TRACE GAS in the atmosphere, it is the 0.038% of it.
    There is no such a thing as “greenhouse effect”, “greenhouse gases are gases IN a greenhouse”, where heated gases are trapped and relatively isolated not to lose its heat so rapidly. If greenhouse effect were to be true, as Svante Arrhenius figured it out: CO2 “like the window panes in a greenhouse”, but…the trouble is that those panes would be only 3.8 panes out of 10000, there would be 9996.2 HOLES.
    See:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/28018819/Greenhouse-Niels-Bohr
    CO2 is a gas essential to life. All carbohydrates are made of it. The sugar you eat, the bread you have eaten in your breakfast this morning, even the jeans you wear (these are made from 100% cotton, a polymer of glucose, made of CO2…you didn´t know it, did you?)
    You and I, we are made of CARBON and WATER.
    CO2 is heavier than Air, so it can not go up, up and away to cover the earth.
    The atmosphere, the air can not hold heat, its volumetric heat capacity, per cubic cemtimeter is 0.00192 joules, while water is 4.186, i.e., 3227 times.
    This is the reason why people used hot water bottles to warm their feet and not hot air bottles.
    Global Warmers models (a la Hansen) expected a kind of heated CO2 piggy bank to form in the tropical atmosphere, it never happened simply because it can not.
    If global warmers were to succeed in achieving their SUPPOSED goal of lowering CO2 level to nothing, life would disappear from the face of the earth.
    So, if no CO2 NO YOU!

  25. Sam Hall says:

    I would guess that you are correct in the growth of energy use. But I disagree with the concern you have.

    For example, people say we are short of water. What BS, 70% of the planet is covered with water. It may not be in the condition or location you want, but those are just engineering problems.
    We can produce all the energy we need without killing ourselves with pollution. we just have to get rid of this mindset that only sees problems and start building the solutions.
    As a friend of mine says, “You have opposable thumbs, deal with it”

  26. Douglas DC says:

    This is a nightmare to some greens, healthy, happy prosperous dark skinned people!
    EEEK! also, as they become more prosperous they become cleaner living, better
    educated. Time to Nuke up, or lose it, folks…

  27. a jones says:

    Oh Mr Fuller.

    Crisis? what crisis? The whole essence of a crisis is that it occurs suddenly and was not foreseen although with hindsight it should have been. Was it Pam or was it Gladstone? I can never remember, who said all crises are the same.

    Since you you are trying to peer into the future let me remind you according to Yogi Berra very wise people avoid making predictions, especially about the future. Less wise prophets are usually clever enough to specify either what will happen or when it will happen but never both at the same time.

    Thus they like to say things like ‘I predict in the future a great bridge, ziggurat or some such will be built here’ but sagaciously forget to say by when. Others prefer to suggest that some great disaster will occur at some defined date in the future but equally carefully avoid specifying quite what this catastrophe will be.

    In this respect you are as guilty of hubris and extrapolating meaningless numbers as the climate modellers. It is not possible to peer into the future thirty years hence with any certainty at all beyond some very simple and largely meaningless statements. Fifty years ago they tried setting up think tanks to supposedly do that, was it the Hudson Institute? and see just how wrong they got it.

    For all the attempts of politicians to slow it down and divert the rents into their own pockets both the technology and the flow of information is now moving too fast to be controlled by the mass population manipulation techniques that have served them so well in the past.

    What do you imagine will happen when the communist party loses its grip on China and when will it happen? The stresses are all too clear.

    I do not understand your reference to Manchester or London assuming these are the English cities, as for Ohio I know nothing of it. Please expound.

    Otherwise I do not comprehend your obsession with fossil fuel consumption, there is no shortage of the stuff: it has served humanity well for the last three hundred years and there is plenty more for many hundreds of years yet: and who knows where our technology will have taken us by then.

    Kindest Regards

  28. Pascvaks says:

    Ref – HR says:
    October 17, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    The Optimist sees a great, shiny, brand New World; the Pessimist sees history repeated and only the names, numbers, and weapons change. Homo Sapien Sapiens ain’t too bright. It’s still a ‘dog eat dog world’ out there and assuming anything, one way or the other, just makes an ass out of u and me. Oh… one more hot tip for the discussion learned from the school of careful observation: If you wait long enough, anything and everything happens.

  29. azcIII says:

    The population growth in China will likely reverse so they have a declining population in coming years. This is due to their one-child policy, lack of marriageable women for the number of young men, massive environmental damages from pollution/toxins and water and food contamination, among other reasons. Like real estate values, population does not always goes up. History shows that even the most advanced societies (for their times) have suffered calamitous events that reduced their populations by half or more in months or a few years. We are not immune from this.

    As world population grows, so does competition for resources. As resources grow more scarce, wars will be fought over them. See: Iraq and Afghanistan, among others. Regardless of the other reasons for fighting in the ME, one of them is surely for the purpose of securing energy resources. Foolish, when you consider the reserves present under US soil (see: USGS for estimates in trillions of barrels/cubic feet), but I digress.

    As resource wars ramp up, it is likely that hundreds of millions will die in the chaos, either as direct casualties or due to peripheral causes (starvation, disease, etc). With the weapons so many countries have today (plus the ones we don’t know about), WWIII will kill people more efficiently and in greater number than your worst nightmare of war could envision, using nuclear, biological and chemical means. There may be new weapons that employ even worse. I expect, when it is over, world population will have been reduced by at least half. Add in the potential for climate disasters affecting the food supply (already happening and it could start WWIII) and our near-future (next 20 years) problem is not likely to be overpopulation or scarce energy. It will be digging graves fast enough to bury the dead.

  30. cedarhill says:

    In short, Fuller is right about energy consumption. He’s not the only one that is realistic about likely global energy demand. Growing economies consume more energy. It really is true that energy is life and cheap energy is prosperity. Try living without food for a few months. I live in farm country. One person with a combine can harvest corn (pick, shell, clean, convert debris to mulch and dump grain into trucks) at 8 acres per hour (minimum). Try that by hand. I’ll supply the corn knife.

    Fuller is right about we’re really in crisis today since energy consumption has been depressed due to the two+ years and counting recession. In the US it is even more of a crisis than most realize. It used to be energy plants had around a 7 to 10 year lead time. Today, with Obama shutting down the Gulf, oil shale, coal and only whispering about nuclear you are truly screwed. The US will run on hydrocarbons for at least 20 years. At least for those seriously analyzing production, energy density, consumer demand profiles, etc. If and when the world and/or US economy breaks out of recession, energy prices will double, then double again and maybe double once again. By dramatically stopping energy manufacturing we’ll be even more dependent on “foreign” energy and guess what? They’ll be a whole lot of TVs getting turned on in India, China, and, yes, maybe even Zimbabwe. Oh, and toss in the 200 Volts that’ll be sucking electricity off the grid. Things simply will not improve in the US for a decade even if we somehow became sensible and decided to start building capacity to meet demand.

    It will be interesting, though, to see Greens having to eat the weeds they grow after the combines grind to a halt.

  31. Nick Stokes says:

    Tom,
    Yes, indeed. That’s why there is a worry about AGW. People say, it’s only been a fraction of a degree. But there’s plenty more to come, whatever the sensitivity.

  32. John David Galt says:

    History shows us that as nations become richer, they start to care more about the environment and eventually do something to clean it up. In effect (as expressed in the economic choices of people in less developed countries), clean air and water are luxuries.

    Environmental orthodoxy says that increasing the world’s wealth to US levels (as measured by energy use) will be a disaster for the earth. I say, it is what will save us, if we can make it happen in spite of the environmental movement. When the Chinese and Hindus have comfortable lives, they will be able to afford those luxuries. The same goes for all of the world’s poor countries.

  33. Sandy says:

    These growth figures presume that the industrialized Nations continue to be a consumer market to power development.
    A bankrupt First World will surely severely hinder this.

  34. Squidly says:

    Evermore an example of why you cannot power the world with wind and/or solar.

  35. Alan Clark of Dirty Oil-berta says:

    America and indeed, the current industrialized world, achieved their prosperity on the back of one key ingredient – cheap energy. While I have no argument with the premise that Chinas one, two and three will achieve middle-class status, it occurs to me that they will need this one key ingredient as well and the basic premise of the article is that cheap energy will be no more. Or at least that what I would naturally deduce from what I know about our current ability to produce crude oil, our #1 source of cheap energy.

    So I wonder if the timing of the article’s projections (2035) take into account that oil could well be multiples of current prices if demand were to out-pace production for a couple or three years running. Clearly, America et-al, (the developed nations of the world) would not be where they are today if crude oil was $100/bbl through the 1950′s.

  36. Jeff Id says:

    Tom

    “2. China is developing quickly, trying to do in 50 years what America did in 100. As a result, they have doubled their energy use since 2000, becoming the largest energy user in the world.”

    Not even close to the same thing.

    wow. Comparing the special economic zones to the United States of America is pretty extreme. Of course it’s getting harder to tell the difference.

  37. DirkH says:

    Nick Stokes says:
    October 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm
    “Tom,
    Yes, indeed. That’s why there is a worry about AGW. People say, it’s only been a fraction of a degree. But there’s plenty more to come, whatever the sensitivity”

    Like, another fraction of a degree for the next 40% in Co2 concentration rise? I think i’ll crawl under a rock.

  38. Pascvaks says:

    The favorite in the All-Or-Nothing Horse Race of the 21st Century is China. Think about it. Please. The current “Champ” is overweight, out of shape, out of breath, up to his nose in debt, and full of beer. If that weren’t enouth, the WEST is playing by a very funny set of new rules –ones some potheaded idiot drew up one night in a trance– and the rest of the World is using the Old Rules and standing behind China screaming “Kick ‘em again! Kick ‘em again, harder!” Nope… there isn’t going to be a Bright New Future if you live in Europe or North America. It’s shaping up to be another Dark Ages from self-inflicted stupidity in the West. You can’t win anything if you won’t fight.

  39. Vmaximus says:

    I know this a tired saying, but at the turn of the last century NYC was worrying about being over run in horse **it.

    Perhaps global warming will so absurd in a decade or so.

  40. crosspatch says:

    China’s nuclear electric problem is quite aggressive. They must complete two reactors a year between now and 2020 to meet their current minimum goals. China will be reprocessing , not burying, spent fuel.

    Westinghouse alone is expecting to have 18 AP1000 units either complete or nearing completion by 2020. They are expected to be built with 100% Chinese content by the construction of the 6th plant.

    China plans eventual construction of 200 plants. That’s a LOT of nuclear power. The US is going to be way behind and we can thank the Carter administration for regulations preventing the reprocessing of spent fuel. It was our plan all along from the 1950s through the late 1970′s to reprocess fuel. Carter is the one who put the halt to the US nuclear industry by starving it of anything to do with the spent fuel. He created a hazardous waste issue we have not yet dealt with. Carter’s decisions are still haunting us.

  41. Roger Carr says:

    Your posts always make me feel uneasy, Tom. They have right from the first I read; and I do not mean they make me uneasy because they provide uncomfortable insight, but uneasy because they promote a disguised back door kind of justification for accepting that mankind really is seriously altering our climate whilst on the surface feigning to be riding with those of us who are adopting a healthy scepticism of this.

    Dropping back for a moment to your “The Wisdom of Three Dog Night” (Oct. 16, 2010) I note this part of one sentence: “There are things we can do to protect against further climate change…”

    Isn’t this saying that mankind certainly does affect the climate (and by implication, in major ways)? I believe it does say that, and therefore puts you firmly in the AGW camp ─ but you protest openness of opinion, and make-believe that you are really just a regular guy way above petty agendas.

    I do not believe that is so.

    In this particular essay I endorse what P Walker says above: “Sorry , Thomas , but I can see no connection to coal use and burning rivers . Dead lakes maybe , but even that’s a stretch…”

    And I would then continue: Sorry, Tom, but, but, but…

  42. Allen63 says:

    Agreed. In the long run of decades and centuries, energy IS the issue. If it is solved, humankind has nothing but asteroid impacts and caldera volcanoes to worry about.

    Thing is, why try and solve an issue decades and centuries down the road with sacrifices today?

    As time passes, necessity will mother the inventions needed (e.g. practical hydrogen fusion power). Our progeny will take care of themselves as progeny have since the beginning.

  43. Jimbo says:

    Much of the industrial production that used to take place in the West is now being carried out by China. Let’s stop the simple finger pointing as the many of those very goods produced by China are being shipped and flown to the USA and EU.

    Mr. Fuller,
    I get where you are coming from but you sound just like the pessimists of the late 19th century who thought that London would drown in horse manure in 2000. :o) We keep underestimating man’s ingenuity. If you told anyone back in 1900 about home PCs they would not have a clue what you were talking about.

  44. Billy Liar says:

    Carbone says:
    October 17, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Nanotechnologies will see a massive surge by the end of this decade making solar power one of the cheaper (and later the cheapest) sources of energy.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

  45. Jimbo says:

    HR says:
    October 17, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    You said it much better than I just did.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/17/the-three-chinas/#comment-509892

  46. Dave says:

    One factor not commented on sufficiently by Thomas Fuller, although it is implicit in his whole argument, is the (in itself) fairly reasonable assumption that developing countries will increase energy usage to the same levels as the developed world. Whilst that is likely true, if we cut our energy usage in half in sensible ways, the developing countries will only increase their energy usage to half our current level. The key is that energy saving technologies have to be genuinely useful by offering real cost savings.

    Personally I don’t see that we’re going to see a single new technology sweeping all before it, but a whole raft of solutions ranging from gradual improvements in existing technology through to design changes favouring efficiency in end-use. CCS coal plants make no sense because they add to the cost of energy compared to a dirty coal plant, for example, but photo-voltaics are useful in limited areas, as is hydro, tidal, etc. Ground-source heat-exchangers could generate almost all of our energy currently used for heating and cooling. Then again, there are simple things like improving the efficiency of transport systems.

    If any of these things are to work, it’ll be because they offer economic benefits, not because coal is bad. Coal may or may not be the devil, but it’s irrelevant to this debate because we can’t force anyone not to use it. The best we can do is find ways to lower the amount of energy needed for our lifestyle – because that’s what they want the energy for.

  47. John R T says:

    Warnell says:

    ¨— sensible global plans for the reduction of urban sprawl.¨

    Oxymoron alert: SENSIBLE & GLOBAL

  48. rbateman says:

    Crisis will occur when competition for resources turns to exclusion.
    Escalating tensions will be the result, and we all know what risk that carries.
    A country will turn to might to fight for it’s survival.
    The devil is in the details as to how such a struggle unfolds, and who are the winners & losers.
    At this late stage in Earth’s advanced civilization, there may not be any winners.
    The good way out of such crises is to not let them get started.
    Don’t blink.

  49. rbateman says:

    Energy is a resource. It is one of many.

  50. Jimbo says:

    I’m not saying solar energy is for everyone but please note:
    “China ‘the world’s leading solar cell producer’”
    http://www.solar-pv-management.com/solar_news_full.php?id=72806

    also see:

    Hyperion: Hot Tub sized nuelcear reactors – Energy for 20,000 homes
    http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/news_pub.html

    It’s things like the above which is why I am not as pessemistic as Mr. Fuller. Where will Homo Sapiens be in 35 years regarding technology? I don’t know and neither does Mr. Fuller.

  51. Dave says:

    azcIII – October 17, 2010 at 4:53 pm:

    “The population growth in China will likely reverse so they have a declining population in coming years. This is due to their one-child policy, lack of marriageable women for the number of young men, massive environmental damages from pollution/toxins and water and food contamination, among other reasons.”

    I think it’s very unlikely that China’s population will begin to decline any time soon – say in the next fifty years or so. Your environmental reason is not something I’d considered greatly, but seems a slim possibility. The kind of pollution necessary to put a real brake on China’s population growth would be inconceivable, even in Ohio – note that at the worst times for industrial pollution in the US, there was negligible effect on the population.

    A quick look at the Chinese age pyramid should show the fallacy of your demographic arguments. The one-child policy has effected a great reduction in the rate of growth of China’s population, but not the the extent that it has become negative – China’s still growing, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

  52. Stu says:

    Who knows really what China and other places will look like and what they will do when fully ‘developed’? I think people lack imagination and simply assume that development anywhere means turning into a carbon copy of ‘the West’, but there’s so many possibilities. Similarly, we have no idea what Western cultures will be doing in 50/100 years time. Maybe we will have massively downplayed materialism, dematerialised the culture… maybe the automobile will simply go the way of the dodo for instance. Look at a technology as simple as the elevator, and how utterly it transformed society. How many technologies on the scale of the elevator are yet to be discovered and put in place?

    To me, development is simply possibility, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will end up in the same place as another culture that ‘developed’ 100 years beforehand. There are many different ways to go.

  53. Eric Anderson says:

    Tom, the projections of energy use don’t scare me. There certainly is not an energy crisis now. At most, you have shown that energy usage is likely to grow significantly in the coming decades. And if it grows at such a rate, and if all other things remain equal, and if there are not significant new stores of fossil fuel energy discovered, and if other sources of energy do not rise to take the place of some of the current fossil fuel energy, and if this results in scarcity of energy, and if such scarcity is not mitigated by rising prices (supply/demand), and if the scarcity results in disruption of necessary services, and if we are unable to find other ways to re-allocate the available energy and otherwise deal with such disruption, then, yes, perhaps there will be a crisis.

    It is a pretty far logical path to tread, with lots of questionable links from point A to point B. So, no, I don’t think there is a current energy crisis and I don’t think there is much need to worry about a possible energy crisis decades in the future.

    Should we be cognizant of growing energy demand? Sure. Is there value in freeing innovation and opening up avenues to deal with the anticipated demand? Absolutely. Can it be done in a calm and thoughtful manner without alarmism or language of crisis? I hope so.

  54. richard verney says:

    If AGW is real, anyone with an ounce of commonsense would immediately realize that unless China agrees to restrict its CO2 emissions to 1980 or 1990 levels there is no prospect of mitigating CO2 emissions on a global scale. Since (and this should be equally obvious) there is no prospect of China (and for that matter other develing countries such as India and Brazil) agreeing to limit its future emissions, the only sensible course of action is for the West/developed industrial nations to do nothing and see what happens being ready to adapt to problems caused by climate change (whatever may have driven those changes) should it be truly necessary.
    The West/developed industrial nations should be considering the real implications of your post, namely the shift of power from West to East and what they can do, if anything, to maintain their global influence rather than gradually slipping to the role of bit part player. De-carbonising western economies will only speed the shift in power from West to East and western countries would do well to ponder on the political implications of this game change.
    Embarking upon an extensive program of building nuclear power plants would be a very good start for those in the West.

  55. Scott Covert says:

    It is awesome to get some fresh perspectives.

    Thanks for a well written opinion piece Thomas.

    I don’t need to agree with it to know there is truth in every thought.

    I am more on the pessimistic side. Population will be restrained by wars and disease, the bigger the populations, the bigger the disasters (squared).

  56. John M says:

    “The best we can do is find ways to lower the amount of energy needed for our lifestyle – because that’s what they want the energy for.”

    Which is exactly what’s been happening.

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/country/img/charts_png/US_totint_img.png

    Graph shows US energy intensity (energy usage/economic production).

    No cap ‘n trade. No carbon tax. Just lots of businesses and people using good common sense and economic principles. And a lot of it under neanderthals like Reagan and Bush.

    The problem is, for those who believe in CAGW, that’s not good enough. There is no way to meet the “required” cuts without draconian changes in the way people live.

    Whether or not you believe those cuts are necessary, the only way they can happen is to force people to live the way they don’t want to live.

    The Al Gores of the world are either naive or dishonest.

  57. Jimbo says:

    My final words to Thomas Fuller,
    I get the feeling that you are making the same mistake as the AGWers – making projections and ignoring other factors. What factors you might ask. Human ingenuity, inventions, accidental discoveries, 1 brilliant mind, change in public policy focus (e.g. CHP, compulsory soot filters in coal fired power plants), global pandemic etc. I just get the funny feeling that you might be seeing things like the climate computer models.

    Be optimistic Mr. Fuller, that’s what America used to be about and it sent men to the Moon.

  58. Jimbo says:

    Correction:
    What factors you might ask[?]

  59. Smokey says:

    Nick Stokes says:

    “Yes, indeed. That’s why there is a worry about AGW. People say, it’s only been a fraction of a degree. But there’s plenty more to come, whatever the sensitivity.”

    Nick, where exactly is this “plenty more [degrees of warming] to come” supposed to be coming from?

    There is zero evidence of any unusual or significant warming on the horizon. What we are observing is simply natural variability. If you’ve finally discovered that mysterious heat hidden in the pipeline, could you please point it out for us? Thanks.

    Also, I dispute Tom Fuller’s pessimistic outlook. It must be genetic or something, because all we have to do is look at the astronomical progress the human race has achieved over only the past century.

    A hundred years ago people were packed into small houses and apartments with no indoor plumbing; an infection or a sore throat could easily result in death; dentistry was barbaric; most people either rode horses or walked; cholera was a neighborhood disease, malaria was still extant in the U.S.; 40% of the average person’s income was spent on food; the moon was as far out of reach as the Andromeda galaxy; wind powered most ships; the telegraph and Morse code were high-tech communications, faster even than carrier pigeons; almost half the population was living on farms, and arose with the sunrise and went to bed at sunset; the whale population was still being decimated; starvation and famine in most countries was absolutely routine, etc., etc., etc.

    Look at the progress we have made in that short time. But listening to the pessimists, you would think we’re living in a hell on Earth, and things are bound to get worse.

    A hundred years from now all the wild-eyed hand-wringing by the CAGW crowd will be seen to be as trivial as last century’s problems are to us now.

    The ancestors of today’s anti-fossil fuel zealots were the Luddites, who smashed spinning jennies because they feared unemployment. But just the opposite happened: higher paid workers filled the need for loom builders and repairmen, cloth became much cheaper for everyone, and thus more in demand, farmers were paid more for growing cotton, and the world in general became more prosperous; a mirror image of Bastiat’s Broken Window fallacy.

    The things people fear in the future are not big problems. They will be solved. Only truly unexpected events cause serious problems. Anyone seen an asteroid lately?

  60. Kum Dollison says:

    Better worry about 2012. We’ve been on the plateau of peak oil production for 6 yrs. now. In 2012 we fall off. 2013, it gets worse. After that? You really don’t want to know.

  61. Enginer says:

    Although the energy predictions may not be far off, and with peak oil a certainty, competition for scarce resources will be fierce, don’t for that several BILLION people will die off during the 2020’2 and 2030′s due to crop failure from global cooling.

    This works two ways. Crop conditions are expected to be similar to the bottom of the little ice age, and cooling, as we denialists understand it, will lead to less atmospheric humidity, and widespread drought.

    In any case I am afraid that mankind, alone, is not smart enough to make a preventative adjustment.

  62. John M says:

    Smokey says:
    October 17, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    A hundred years ago people were packed into small houses and apartments with no indoor plumbing; an infection or a sore throat could easily result in death; dentistry was barbaric; most people either rode horses or walked; cholera was a neighborhood disease, malaria was still extant in the U.S.; 40% of the average person’s income was spent on food…

    Smokey, you just don’t get it. Those things were all good, because they minimized man’s impact on Gaia.

    Just think, if we’d had computer models back then, we could have had a bunch of government scientists telling us how harmful improvements in lifestyle were going to be.

  63. Smokey says:

    Kum Dollison,

    I couldn’t have planned your comment better if I had written it myself.☺

    U.S. oil reserves.

  64. u.k.(us) says:

    “The choices we make about energy, the environment and climate will be limited by The Three Chinas.”
    =============
    Only if we submit.

  65. TWE says:

    Roger Carr – Exactly. I have been feeling the same way and I’m glad others have noticed. I got even more uneasy reading (or attempting to read) Ravetz’ essays quite some time ago. I feel we are subtly being nudged into a softer more ‘lukewarm’ stance on AGW.

  66. Curiousgeorge says:

    Thomas, all of this is speculation, or more formally – probability estimates. You’ve said you are not a scientist, but you should be aware of the dangers of placing too much faith in probability. A very smart guy named Bruno DeFinetti, once commented that “Probabilities do not exist”. There is a great deal of wisdom in that seemingly simple phrase. I’d urge you and others to give it due consideration, especially when predicting the future.

  67. Christian Bultmann says:

    Apparently there are still many people who reason the same way Paul Ehrlich did 40 years ago.
    Limited resources spread over an ever increasing demand spells doom, but how limited are those resources?
    Much like Paul didn’t foresee the incredible increase in food production Norman Borlaug brought about, so do todays doom sayer don’t grasp the through meaning of E=mc2.
    http://www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm?aid=2469

  68. Logan says:

    There is plenty of potential for new energy generation and conservation by a wide variety of concepts. See, for example, the lists of radical and conventional concepts at the New Energy Congress PESwiki website:
    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Congress:Top_100_Technologies_–_RD
    If any of the major ideas work, such as Eric Lerner’s Focus Fusion, the fundamentals will change. And, if you are skeptical about anything that invokes new science, one can remark that, with a little new engineering one can produce thousands of years of energy from thorium.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium#Thorium_as_a_nuclear_fuel

    The only real problems are political.

  69. Smokey says:

    TWE says:

    “I feel we are subtly being nudged into a softer more ‘lukewarm’ stance on AGW.”

    Prescient.

    IMHO, in this debate there are only scientific skeptics, and CO2 alarmists. The category “lukewarmers” simply gives cover to the subset of the alarmist crowd that feels more comfortable pretending they understand both sides. But at heart they are part and parcel of the alarmist crowd.

    Either one accepts that rigorous skepticism is an essential part of the scientific method, or one is a CO2 alarmist. There is no middle ground.

  70. Alex Heyworth says:

    Personally, I am sick of pundits, politicians and scientists telling me that we’re all doomed unless we start going backwards. I suspect a large proportion of the population is with me on this also. We don’t elect politicians to compound our problems. Nor should the government employ scientists to do so. What we want are solutions. We in the west want more energy, more wealth and a better life. So do our counterparts in the third world and the developing world. And we in the west would be delighted if they could share in our prosperity, too.

    So what governments, and the scientists they employ, need to do is get off their backsides, stop saying we’re doomed and it’s all too hard, and work out how that is going to be achieved. I sense that the Chinese and Indian governments are doing their utmost to achieve this. It’s about time our governments started pulling their weight.

    Who’s with me on this?

  71. jae says:

    FULLER: JUST WHAT IN THE HELL IS YOUR POINT IN THIS WEIRD POST?

    My simple answer to all this is Jesus and the Bible. That is the only real answer to all these worries, as everyone will eventually discover. So, what do you think about that, Mr. Chicken Little?

  72. Stu says:

    Smokey says:

    “Either one accepts that rigorous skepticism is an essential part of the scientific method, or one is a CO2 alarmist. There is no middle ground.”

    Where do you get off in dictating what other people should be thinking? It’s entirely possible for an individual to be skeptical of the idea that CO2 is cause for alarm, whilst also being skeptical that there is absolutely no cause for alarm. It’s just an agnostic position. There is more room here than just atheists and believers, and to acknowledge only the existence of the two extremes while forcefully ignoring a whole range of middleground views is tantamount to shutting down debate, imo.

    I line up with the skeptical position much more easily or comfortably than I do the hardcore alarmist position, simply because there is room to move there, the skeptical position is much more flexible, and the skeptical community in general is much more flexible. But not in the way that you’re defining skepticism. In fact, I wouldn’t call skepticism as you are defining it above skepticism at all. Sorry.

  73. Dave says:

    Smokey>

    “Either one accepts that rigorous skepticism is an essential part of the scientific method, or one is a CO2 alarmist. There is no middle ground.”

    I disagree. Rigorous skepticism tells us that we don’t know much, if anything. As such, it’s possible, although entirely unproven at the moment, that CO2 is the cause of warming, and somewhat possible that any resultant warming will be detrimental overall.

    Since it’s been raised as a possible risk, I’m perfectly happy to take any mitigating action that is beneficial in its own right for other reasons, and not being over-prioritised as a result of the hypothetical threat.

    What’s important, though, is not to think that we know everything and must be correct. We leave that to the warmistas.

  74. old construction worker says:

    Jimbo
    ‘Hyperion: Hot Tub sized nuelcear reactors’

    I’m waiting for a “house size” reactors.

  75. jae says:

    “So let’s talk about energy and why what is described above signals a crisis–or not.”

    Please read (reread?) how ALL of the CRAP published by Malthusus, Erlich, Holdren and their moronic satanistic friends has not come to pass, even in a minor sense. That might help you “dig” reality. YOU, sir, are part of the problem!

  76. davidc says:

    Many people are settling on world population as the central coming difficulty for everything. And when someone says 9 billion people, everyone trembles at the magnitude of it. The problem is very few people have any way of visualising these large numers.

    Here’s my way. I regularly travel from Sydney up the Blue Mountains to a place inland about 100 km. For most of the distance there are settlments on both sides that extend something like 5 km. Beyond that uninhabited bush for hundreds of km. So in about an hour and a half I travel along a perfectly understandable and “local” strip of 100kmx10km or 10^5mx10^4m; that is, 10^9 square metres. If we got all the world’s population together to stand on that strip it would be 9 people per square m. Much like standing in a lift. Or if you built it in, say, three tiers it would be about the density in a full stadium. Then as I made my hour and a half trip I could wave to everyone in the world as I went by. (And while I did it, the entire rest of the world would be empty of people.)

  77. GG says:

    We can use fusion ! hehe

    Seriously though. There are only two possible answers :
    1) Nuclear power everywhere
    2) Bad times

    It`s pretty simple

  78. Don Shaw says:

    Tom,
    You always seem to ignore the most proomising recent technology for the recovery of natural gas from shale that is about as clean and cheap as one can get. The potential here is enormous in the US, Canada and elsewhere in the worldto provide an abundatnt supply of clean energy at reasonable price for at least many decades. This will be mostly usefull initially to displace coal for electricity generation; however technology already exist to convert gas to liquid fuels that can use existing infrastructure.
    Unfortunately the enviros and the Administration are already doing everything possible to place obstacles in the way of this fuel source. But this will be temporary given the upcoming and the 2012 election.
    This technology will likely kill the biofuels, windmills, solar and other alternative sources that are very expensive and impractable. Hopefully this will end all the wastfull expenditures and subsidies that are adding to our huge debt while reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources.
    And the best thing about this energy development it is paid for by private $$$ not the corrupt Congress that tries to pick winners but always ends up with loosers.

    http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20101017/BUSINESS/10170314/1003/RSS01

    “Starting in about 2006, natural gas drillers like Devon Energy, EOG Resources and XTO Energy, now owned by ExxonMobil, perfected methods first tried in 1981 that allow them to cheaply drill down and then horizontally into gas trapped in formations of shale never before thought accessible.
    To release the trapped gas, drillers inject a slurry of water, sand and chemicals to break up rock and create small escape channels, a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

    “Meanwhile, natural gas drillers are spending money and adding jobs. A recent report by Pennsylvania State University, commissioned by a natural gas industry group, predicts that in 2010, drilling in Pennsylvania’s shale formations will add 89,000 jobs and $8 billion in spending.
    Analysts predict heating bills this winter could be as low or lower than last year, and sharply lower than in recent years. Through the first six months of 2010, average residential gas prices were 9 percent lower than for the same period in 2009 and 18 percent lower than in 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration.
    But while most signs point to low and stable natural gas prices for years to come, it’s not a sure thing.
    If regulations tighten or drilling methods are forced to change because of environmental concerns, prices could rise.”

  79. Tim says:

    “that China’s per capita income will be $50,000 in 2050 ”

    Just curious but is that in 2050 dollars or 2010 dollars? Having an income of 50k is nice but will it be worth 50k in 40 years or more like 10k?

    There is lots of coal in the world and now shale gas so it will get used. Best to let the scientists who work on clean burning coal tech (pure oxygen environment, high temp) have at it because it will be used.

    Of course that would mean real pollutants being done away with (mercury, sulfur, nitrous) and a near pure stream of CO2 coming out. So those in the green movement will have to admit they were wrong on CO2 and focus on real pollutants (fat chance of that happening, I know).

  80. Les Francis says:

    Kum Dollison says:
    October 17, 2010 at 6:22 pm
    Better worry about 2012. We’ve been on the plateau of peak oil production for 6 yrs. now. In 2012 we fall off. 2013, it gets worse. After that? You really don’t want to know.

    K.D., As previously pointed out.
    Peak oil is a bottle neck on production and distribution bought about by regulation and carpet-baggary rather than actual reserves.

  81. Rob Potter says:

    Well done Tom.

    A great series of highly provocative articles getting plenty of people hot under the collar one way or another.

    Overall, however, your bottom line is still one of pessimism about the future which I believe is based in the rose-tinted glasses with which we (I include myself here, even though I try not to) look at ‘golden-ages’ in the past. Those golden ages were not so golden if you look at them in detail and the only thing which got us out of them was more development not less and – crucially – innovation.

    One can’t fault the straight line projections you have made, but as we have seen so many time in the past, such straight line projections have never been proven correct.

    An optimist I may be, but travelling and working in developing countries over the past 7-8 years has really shown me what development can do to release human creativity and drive innovation. There are still around a billion people on this planet wondering where tomorrow’s lunch is coming from, but in the past 30 years or so we have increased the number who don’t worry about tomorrow’s lunch by twice as many. That’s 2 billion people who can now think about how to improve their lot in life over a longer period than just the next weeks or months – the basic building block for innovation.

    We are certainly going to need all of this in the next 30 years, but do I think humanity has the wherewithal to solve future problems?

    Absolutely.

  82. Dave F says:

    Obviously, these energy scenarios do not work, and we can expect either wars or adaptation to different energy sources. Given man’s history, I am optimistic for no reason.

  83. dr.bill says:

    re Smokey: October 17, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Smokey is fundamentally right, and you all know it.

    The alarmists have proved exactly nothing, and what little has been predicted has been found to be wrong.

    The AGW game is now just a dead man walking, and all this mental masturbation serves no purpose other than to give those who bought into it a way to save face.

    /dr.bill

  84. Stu says:

    Rob says:

    “We are certainly going to need all of this in the next 30 years, but do I think humanity has the wherewithal to solve future problems?

    Absolutely.”

    I’m basically with you, Rob. PS, did you see this yet? Pretty inspiring.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html

  85. Methow Ken says:

    Comments by several people have already touched on the solution to a number of serious real problems (both moderate-term and long-term (CAGW NOT included, of course (since it has not been proven to qualify under ”serious – real” heading) ):
    Both large & small passively-safe Generation-III+ and (eventually, for reprocessing) Generation-IV fast-neutron power reactors. Maybe in 50 years the super-techies will solve the really tough problems that always seem to keep commerically viable fusion power 10-15 years out. . . . and maybe they won’t.
    In the meantime:
    We know how to build safe, efficient, and reliable Gen-III+ reactors RIGHT NOW.
    See just for starters:
    https://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt/community/nuclear_energy/277

  86. R. de Haan says:

    And so economic growth, consumption, free markets and capitalism get a bad name despite the fact that capitalism and free markets have served our civilization pretty well against all alarmist odds from the past. But endless propaganda, scare mongering, government control and regulations will do a much better job.
    Our wise leaders have decided to bless you with wind and solar power and they even have planned for the number of electric cars that will be on our roads by 2020.
    Much to risky to leave these highly effective technologies with proven track record up to the free markets.
    Much better if Government make all the decisions, takes your job, takes your money make you happy and while you sleep watches the global thermostat to prevent our climate from overheating.

    It’s called socialism and it has been tried before.
    Most experiments ended extremely bloody.
    But the prospect of another three China’s horrible, let’s give it an other try.

  87. thomaswfuller says:

    Hi all,

    Thanks for the comments. A couple of quick points:

    1. I am not a pessimist about this at all. For one thing, those extra mouths will have brains attached, and if we get an extra Einstein or two out of the next wave of population growth we’ll be ahead of the game. I do believe this is solveable-but I don’t think everyone has really realised the scope of what we’re going to need to solve.

    2. Hey, up there–I’m a Lukewarmer, okay? I keep saying it, and I know it’s not the same as skeptic. But I’m not trying to convert you and I’m not trying to sneak AGW in through the back window while chatting comfortably in the living room. Most people are more interested in facts than ideology, in any event–I’m trying to present facts.

    3. Tim–I’m pretty sure GS used 2009 dollars without (important!) adjusting for PPP, as one thing we’re going to need for future prosperity is appreciation of currencies in developing countries.

  88. anna v says:

    I agree with people who see this as a change in direction of where to look for the falling sky. I am not pointing particularly at Tom when I say: It seems there is a catastropholagnic (yes, I just created a word, it means being drawn to and enjoying catastrophe projections) vector in the western mentality. It probably derives from the Judeochristian background religions with their prophets: “repent, doom is around the corner, you are a sinner and you will certainly pay”, ending in “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”.

    I also am a prophet, and I see a bifurcation ahead: either there will be an expressed WWIII, and all these points will be moot, or there will be plenty of energy and the problems the global society will face is what to do with the number of people who cannot have jobs because they are not needed as a work force any longer. This last will be the real problem, and I will say why:

    If we project the incredible rise in technology from 1900 to the present to the next hundred years, I see robots doing all jobs in the way the lower classes did all the jobs for the nobility back when there was nobility. Human supervision will be reduced to some service sections and to all creative sections. How will the masses be occupied? A problem for science fiction scenaria, but I see it quite close if we do not blow up in WWIII and start from square number one.

    Energy? It is no real problem.It will be nuclear, fusion, sun , what have you. It is WWIII that is the real danger, and I call it expressed ( like genes) because there are continuous wars festering in the Pax Americana that can get out of control easily.

  89. davidmhoffer says:

    Thomas,
    I enjoy your writing because you cite the sources of your information, provide conclusions based on sound logic that flows from the facts, and though I frequently disagree with you, cannot quibble with the fact that you do not rely on misinformation or selective facts to make you case. You also generate comment which is as interesting as your article. In this case I shall quibble with your information as well as many of the comments it has generated.

    The population estimates and projections of energy use in developing nations you cite are drawn from global studies sponsored in whole or in part by the United Nations. I have no more faith in their projections in this regard than I do in their pronouncements regarding the honesty with which the Iraq Oil for Food program was administered, the steady stream of condemnations eminating from a Human Rights Commission chaired by such luminaries as Lybia and Iran which ignore the most blatant examples the world has to offer, or their pronouncements in regard to the temperatur of the planet two decades hence.

    Were their numbers correct however, it is too simplistic by far to look at the current patterns and wealth and consumption, project them into the future based on those trends alone, and then throw your hands up in despair, having concluded that there is no obvious path that gets us from “here” to “there” without some crisis along the way. Popycock. That is a problem in centrally planned economies that doesn’t exist when the driving factors are supply and demand.

    Economies and populations grow incrementally, and they are channeled in their growth by the best options available at each step of the process. Should fossil fuel become too expensive to fuel economic growth in developing nations, then either they will not develop, or they will do so by adopting other means. If we in the first world cannot support our standard of living because of the same rise in cost of fossil fuels, our standard of living will drop, or we will find alternatives that work. The point is that there is no giant leap from where we are to your 8.5 billion with rising energy consumption assumed for the developing world arrived at by multiplying the population estimates by the energy consumption estimates and concluding that a crisis must ensue. Instead of a giant leap there are many tiny ones, and if energy becomes increasingly constrained, then it by default constrains economic growth and the end result is a world economy expanding within its available economic energy sources, hence arriving at a different answer. Should new efficiencies or new energy sources become available that change the limitations of energy we have today for the better, then we again will arrived via incremental steps at a different end point. In neither case does a crisis ensue. The crisis you foresee has its precident in the world of course, a precident established by those who built long term economic plans in defiance of the laws of supply and demand, and in fact precipitated the collapse of their own economy because neither the demand nor the supply were in concert with the so carefully planned central economy.

    Turning to your commentors who seem locked into a view of the United Staes locked in some sort of death spiral, soon to be set aside by the rising power of China, do not rush to teach your children Chinese just yet. Empires do not simply rise and fall. They wax and wane along he way. It was not long ago that I read an article that echoed, often in similar language, the argument that the future belonged to Japan, and best that your children learn Japanese.

    The Japanese corporations it seemed, produced superior quality for lower cost, but more importantly were driven by long range business plans that were decades long while the foolish Americans were locked in the quarterly results timelines. Today Japan is just emerging from a decades long recession, and has been eclipsed by South Korea, China, Mexico and Brazil in the production of many goods once seen as their exclusive domain.

    Prior to that, general wisdom was that my chidlren should best learn Russion. The communist expansion seemed in enevitable. The Americans hands were tied by their own internal peace protestors, Europe was a vocal ally provided that they could just be vocal to retain the facade of being an ally, and in proxy conflicts it seemed that American strategy was predicated on achieving a tie. Who wins when the best their strategy can offer is a tie?

    But the USSR collapsed of its own weight. Their central planning of everything which they believed would displace the laws of supply and demand precipitated the very type of crisis Thomas Fuller sees, but those of us who remained with supply and demand suffered no such predicament.

    If we turn the fclock back further, it would be Spanish that our children should have learned, and it is more likely that Spanish will be the 2nd language of choice in North America in the future, not Chinese. The world forms trading blocks based on natural geographic alliances and on political levels as well. A North American/South American trading block to counter the European Union and the East Asian trading block seems more likely to me than any other.

    And finaly, as I said before, empires wax and wane. China today is waxing, and the United States is waning. I cannot predict the future, it habitually takes twsists and turns unexpected by those who study it full time, let alone pundits like me who jump in when they time and an opinion to spout. But the fact is that the United States waned under the leadership of Jimmy Carter who governed on the assumption that his country had commited sins that must be apologized for. The world correctly sensed that this was an American government that you could kick sand in the fact of and they would beg forgiveness for having made you angry at them.

    They were followed by Ronald Reagan, a man decried by his critics as having an IQ somewhere between a horse and a stump. True or not, he had one important quality in that he was willing to lay out his reaction to any given set of circumstances, and anyone kicking sand in his face was going to get a whole lot more than sand kicked straight back at them. He said he wasn’t bluffing, and everyone from international detractrors to internal unions making punitive demands found that our early enought that almost no one tangled with him for most of his tenure. American fortunes once against waxed.

    In the current context, the crazies who would offer our throats up to sacrifice for the sins they seem convinced that the west has imposed on the rest of the world, they are enabled by a receptive ear in Washington. While Reagan broke matters down to black and white decisions, Obama holds a world view that all decision are grey and clings to that world view no matter how many times he fails. When he does make a strong statement on an issue, Americas enemies know it is mostly bluff, a mistake they would not have dared make if Regan were in power.

    The juggernot of China’s economy is driven by massive central planning forced on a population that doesn’t want it, and driven in the backs of blatant currency manipulation, a complete disregard for intellectual property rights, and a disdain for the environment in general, not just global warming issues.

    They may be waxing now, but their central planning system will eventually result in building massive infrastructure where it cannot be used and leave areas that need it unservices, which they will repackage as select facts proving their success. The United States will not be governed by Obama for ever. He will be replace sooner or later by someone more pragmatic. When they arrive, simple changes in regulation will move millions of energy jobs back to the US, decimate the economies of those who supply it now while funneling money to terrorists, and even simple matters such as requiring that foreign produced good be manufactured according to the same set of labour standards as those which are produced here will make a marked difference in the distribution of jobs and economic power. But the biggest change will come when the Unites States and their free market allies demand that China recognize intellectual property rights or be excluded from international trade.

    I see no one in the current political spectrum in the US who has the charisma to shunt aside Obama and his loopy attempts to apologise to his enemies in order to recruit them as allies in a fit of grovelling that even Carter would be ashamed of, coupled with Reagan’s internal fortitude to say exactly what he meant and leave no impressionj in the minds of his detractors that bludding wasn’t part of his strategy.

    On the other hand, I didn’t see Reagan coming either. Perhaps he will not appear this election or even next. But appear he will, and only a few levers will be required for him/her to pull, and it will once again be America the bully, America the aroggant, America the incarnation of the devil himself that the world will complain about, while hiding in their shadow and quitly cheering as they push back the likes of China simply be returning to the laws of pragmatic decisions and refusing to be bullied and manipulated by those who sense weakness today and take advantage of it.

  90. Kum Dollison says:

    The flow rate of All the world’s oil wells declines by about 3.5 million barrels/day every year.

    In 2011 we’ll bring about 3.0 million bbl/day online. In 2012 we’ll bring about 2.5 million bbl/day online. 2013 is looking to be less than 2012.

    Meantime China, India, and the rest of the Non-OECD nations are increasing demand by about 1.6 million bbl/day, annually.

    Guys, it takes many years to find oil (especially when you’re looking two miles deep under a mile of storm-ravaged ocean,) drill exploratory wells, order oil rigs, get permits, build out pipelines, drill the wells, pump oil. We Know what’s coming in the next several years, and it ain’t enough.

    Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait have somewhere between 1.5 and 2.0 million bbl/day sitting in reserve (maybe.) If they do that will get us through the middle of 2012. Then the price goes through the roof.

    If they don’t have that much, or, if they decide Not to pump it till it’s too late, the price goes through the roof sooner. This ain’t rocket science kiddos. You cain’t pump what you’re not ready to pump (or, what you don’t have.)

    I’m all for CO2. It makes for big, healthy plants, and makes them drought resistant. I have nothing against burning fossil fuels. But, our Immediate problem is the “flow rate” of the world’s oil fields. It’s getting ready to slow, and we can’t, anytime soon, do anything about it.

  91. Roger Carr says:

    thomaswfuller says: (October 17, 2010 at 9:02 pm) 2. Hey, up there–I’m a Lukewarmer, okay?

    Uh, huh.

    (n) lukewarmness, tepidity, tepidness (a warmness resembling the temperature of the skin)
    (n) tepidness, lukewarmness (lack of passion, force or animation)
              From: wordnetweb.princeton.edu

  92. LightRain says:

    “China will soon become the world’s leader in nuclear power generation. The coal that they have will be saved for other uses.”

    Lets hope they build and operate them better than their coal mines.

  93. kwik says:

    Roger Carr says:
    October 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    “Your posts always make me feel uneasy, Tom. They have right from the first I read; and I do not mean they make me uneasy because they provide uncomfortable insight, but uneasy because they promote a disguised back door kind of justification for accepting that mankind really is seriously altering our climate whilst on the surface feigning to be riding with those of us who are adopting a healthy scepticism of this.”

    Exactly.

    Deep deep inside there is a Malthus (and a Lenin?) lurking.
    Up front we see a happy Friedman talking about his mothers first years in the US.

    Goddard, come back!

  94. kwik says:

    davidmhoffer says:
    October 17, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Well, David, that was a good one! I am impressed.

  95. R. de Haan says:

    Don’t fear coal Thomas, it’s a blessing.
    What you should fear is told by Lord Monckton.
    Just watch this short video.

  96. Phil says:

    @R. de Haan says:
    October 17, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Thank you for that most illuminating link to the interview of Lord Monckton. Within that interview is the answer to why there is such great resistance to converting the transportation fleet to clean diesel as much as possible, when such a proposal will both lower costs, stretch scarce resources and lower CO2. It isn’t about lowering CO2. CO2 is merely an excuse to set up the mechanism (i.e. unelected unrepresentative unrecallable world government with absolute powers of regulation and worldwide taxation) to supposedly control CO2, which is uncontrollable as the industrial output of it is a fairly small part of the yearly emissions (the overwhelming balance coming from natural sources). That would also explain the whitewashes of CRU and Dr. Mann, etc. Without CO2 to blame, the excuse to set up this world government would disappear. So could it be that AGW, climate change, climate disruption or whatever you want to call it isn’t really about CO2 at all? That prospect is truly frightening, oil supply issues notwithstanding.

  97. a jones says:

    Kum Dollison says:
    October 17, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    What balderdash.

    Oil pumping capacity has been increasing over the last decade: that people don’t want to buy it is another matter. Often this is due to environmental regulations which is why heavy sour crude such as from Saudi Arabia is so cheap. If the USA wants to be prissy so that they cannot refine or use it that is up to them. They can pay the price for their super clean fuel. And do. But there is the ample pumping capacity and tankers currently laid up and ready to carry it wherever it is wanted. Just give the word and be prepared to pay about half the dollar rate per barrel you do now.

    That is the extra and outrageous price you pay and are still paying for environmental purity: as we are in the EU. Bless your cotton socks for that. But understand China and India are not so picky, at the moment they do not have the demand but be assured they soon will.

    As for for liquified natural gas there are now more tankers and terminals available than anybody is likely to use in the foreseeable future. About half the LNG tanker fleet is idle and two thirds of the production capacity.

    Local natural gas is increasingly abundant too, in the USA from shale here in the UK from undersea reserves, now the punitive tax regulations of the last decade have been relaxed, once again we have have a new bonanza of oil and gas building up and good for thirty years. And unlike the USA the UK has a full national gas grid that supplies everything from the mighty power station to the smallest domestic user: and that will do very well as it has done since it was built forty years ago.

    Here energy is getting cheaper again and will do so faster as soon as the UK green politicians and their windmills have gone which should happen in the next couple of years.

    Coal of course is plentiful, here the choke point is not mining or shipping capacity but port handling capability: chiefly in the receiving ports so it is still taking a month or more standing off to unload in China. Which costs of course. But notice the miners are opening new mines everywhere. Even in the USA new coal fired power plants are being built again, new mines are opening and above all else the railroads, as you call them, are laying new track to carry the coal.

    Not what you might expect if you read the Green MSM, but it is happening just the same.

    So where you get your ideas from I really don’t know.

    Kindest Regards

  98. dr.bill says:

    In my previous comment on October 17, 2010 at 8:46 pm the word “masturbation” was snipped. Just how Puritanical have the moderation standards become? Would “autoeroticism” have been acceptable?

    /dr.bill

    [Reply: "Masturbation" reinstated. It is not an obscene word. Moderation with a light touch is the standard here. We don't censor legitimate words. The moderator just got temporarily carried away. ~dbs, mod.]

  99. thomaswfuller says:
    October 17, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    ….Most people are more interested in facts than ideology, in any event–I’m trying to present facts.

    It seems to me that you fail to do that. You do not present facts. You present speculations based on UN projections that are known to be persistently and habitually exaggerated. In doing so, you promote an ideology, the UN ideology of alarmist environmentalism.

    Your doomsday speculations need to worry anyone only when the UN projections acquire the status of valid replacements for true and objective scientific findings.

    Anyone worrying so much and wallowing in pessimism should at least spend a little bit of time browsing through “The Ultimate Resource II: People, Materials, and Environment”, by Julian L. Simon. http://www.juliansimon.org/writings/Ultimate_Resource/

    More specifically, and relating to concerns about humanity suffering soon from a catastrophic energy shortage, it would be worth your while to read Chapter 3 of the Ultimate Resource, “Can The Supply Of Natural Resources – Especially Energy – Really Be Infinite? Yes! http://www.juliansimon.org/writings/Ultimate_Resource/TCHAR03A.txt

    Here is a fact I know with absolute certainty: if we don’t try to get there, then we surely won’t.

  100. Kum Dollison says:

    Oil Additions, here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_megaprojects

    Production records from the EIA

    These numbers include ALL grades of oil. We refine a lot of heavy, sour crude from Venezuela.

    If I’m publishing “balderdash” we’ll know fairly soon, won’t we.

  101. Jeef says:

    I do not know if what Thomas describes in his oped is a crisis, and I don’t think anybody else knows either.

  102. simpleseekeraftertruth says:

    “So let’s talk about energy and why what is described above signals a crisis–or not.”

    Tom,iIt was pointed out some time ago and by an economist in the early days of that ‘science’ that the need for people to reproduce would wane as the middle class expanded. This was based on the observation that the poor needed to have children to support them in their old age and the rich needed to have children to hand on their inherited titles and wealth but the middle class had no such stimulus and could therefore make a choice. That observation has proved to be correct as can be seen when looking at national population statistics where an inverse correlation exists between wealth and childbirth. To deny the chance of increasing prosperity to the poor is to exclude them from that choice and maintain the driver of increasing population which is need, or to an economist, demand.
    The idea that there will be an energy crisis because of an exponentialy increasing population ignores the obvious which is that those increases will be generated among the worlds poor: give them wealth and the trend will reverse. There is indeed an energy crisis among us and it is a shortage of power generation capacity among the poor which the current frenzy for CO2 restriction can only make worse.

  103. AlanG says:

    And the developing countries are exempt from Kyoto style CO2 emission targets. All the reductions are to come from the ‘developed’ countries. This article just drives how futile and out of date all this is. The majority of fossil fuels are now burnt in the ‘developing’ world and that fraction is rising fast.

    But beware of predicting the future by extrapolation. A few years ago I got the stated coal reserves, consumption and growth projections for China from the Energy Information Agency’s web site. The conclusion was that China runs out of coal in 2038. The smaller developed countries may be feeling besieged now by the larger populations of the developing countries but their large populations are going to count against them in the future. Expect trouble ahead.

  104. Huth says:

    HR says:
    October 17, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I agree with HR; see above. Fuller’s view makes an interesting article on one level — as a numerical investigation, otherwise known as playing with numbers, or arithmetic — but the essence of the thing is still doom and gloom. Sigh. Any psychologists out there? I wonder if people who think like Fuller and those who favour this kind of site for the ‘alternative’ views could be divided very simply into pessimists and optimists. Just wondering. The more I read the more it seems so.

  105. Dave Springer says:

    lowercasefred says:
    October 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    All the projections seem based on the assumption that there will not be a population-reducing war. IMO a very optimistic assumption.

    A population-reducing pandemic is far more likely IMO. Of course a pandemic could be the result of a biological weapon used in an act of war.

    Other unpredictable things could do the work too like a massive CME, supervolcano, or asteroid strike among other things. The bottom line seems to be that modern civilization is a fragile thing vulnerable to all sorts of catastrophes both manmade and natural and its fragility grows with the size of it. It’s only a matter of time.

  106. TomVonk says:

    Mr Fuller is it possible that I have just read 3 pages of rambling about economy and energy consumption and I have not read A SINGLE TIME the words “price” and “market” ?

    This absence is not only suggesting that what you say has no informative value for us , it is also suggesting that you live on another planet.
    A planet where GDP growths are constant for decades , energy consumptions are increasing by constant factors forever , populations grow by unreasonable rates in places where there is no available soil and water to grow food , to mention just a few features that are absurd for us humans .

    I pity you because your planet is not really suitable for intelligent life and I imagine that most people on your planet either sink in everlasting depressions or believe in all kind of irrational fairy tales .
    You know , on Earth we have negative feedbacks that regulate both the economy and consumption .
    These negative feedbacks are called prices .
    If the rate of increase of consumption of something is high for a long enough time , then the price of this something increases .
    So the consumption decreases .
    Our mathematicians have even proved that when the price goes to infinity , the demand goes to 0 .
    You see ? On our planet it is actually impossible to have constant growths or constant increases of energy consumption for a very long time .
    It is actually also impossible to have population growths in places where there is not enough to eat , you know on our planet all those people would die – it is called famine .

    The markets and the prices very efficiently break the demand if it dares to outpace the supply for even a rather short time and famines kill people if they exceed local food production potential .
    Oh and we have also something that is called technological progress , something that you definitely should look at Mr Fuller , even if it will seem unbelievable for a being from your planet .

    You are not lucky to live on a planet where markets and prices don’t exist and I predict a fast demise of your civilisation , very probably by a cataclysmically violent event .
    I predict that among many absurdities , you will have surely invented global warming on your planet too .
    We surely wouldn’t like to live on your planet Mr Fuller .

  107. anorak2 says:

    “I do not know what the sensitivity of the atmosphere is to a doubling of concentrations of CO2 is, and despite pronouncements from partisans on either side of that argument, I don’t think anybody else knows, either.”

    CO2 concentration won’t double even if coal consumption is doubled, tripled or quadrupled. The human caused CO2 _turnover_ will rise according to coal and oil consumption, but that doesn’t mean the aggregate value will.

    BOTE calculation, what happens if we burn ALL available coal AT ONCE:

    1. Earth has 1 * 10^12 tonnes of known coal reserves
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal#World_coal_reserves
    (oil neglected as its reserves are negligible compared to coal)

    2. That should give about 3 * 10^12 tonnes of CO2 (rough guesstimate)

    3. The mass of the earth atmosphere is about 5 * 10^15 tonnes
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_atmosphere#Density_and_mass

    4. 3 * 10^12 divided by 5 * 10^15 gives roughly 0.06 percent CO2, or less than double the current value.

    And that is assuming all available coal is burnt in one instant, which is unfeasible and won’t happen even if coal consumption rises significantly. It still takes centuries to use it all up, so that value will never materialise.

    Otherwhise I think the article is good news. If China and other devoloping countries rise to Western standards of living, good for them, and good for us.

  108. Dr T G Watkins says:

    Well said David Hoffer.
    Russian Abiotic Oil Theory needs an airing on WUWT.
    Nuclear fusion must be the short term answer ( E=MC2 implications ) but as with conventional resources most of the challenges are political in a climate dominated by eco-fascism.

  109. nevket240 says:

    Several people have mentioned China’s population and ‘one child policy’.
    China’s true population is not known with any accuracy. It could well be as much as 1.7billion. The OCP only worked on the poor. If you could afford more children, you had them. If you were well connected in the Communist hierachy, you had more than one child. Back there next week for a while. I’ll do a quick head count and report back.
    Bye.
    regards

  110. Beth Cooper says:

    Open societies foster innovation and there’s always nuclear energy to give us clean technology. Just so long as we don’t let Luddite political parties realise their visions of a green dystopia!

  111. Alex the skeptic says:

    The UK has just established 10 sites for new nuclear power plants. Even the worst of the green politicians eventually realise that they have to provide the right quality of energy that the people need today and would require tomorrow.

    There are two types of energy providers:
    1. The reliable ones; Coal, oil, gas, nuclear, hydro
    2. The unreliable ones: Wind turbines. (PV’s are still unreliable, but in my opinion may be able to reliably provide a measurable fraction of the total energy budget some fine day.

    I can send this comment because we have reliable sources of energy. The future cannot be otherwise. The other option is to go back to the caves and hunt rabbit.

  112. Pascvaks says:

    What the global climate of the 21st Century is, is in the hands of the two largest population countries — China and India; and by global climate, I’m not just talking about the weather.

  113. Neil Craig says:

    One proof that the eco-fascists don’t believe their scare stories is that almost none of them promote nuclear power. Nuclear can certainly produce enough power to satisfy all 9 billion people in a CO2 free manner. If somebody honestly believed CO2 was about to cause a catastrophe they would inevitably support the only practical way of avoiding it.

  114. Barry Woods says:

    An interesting article, especially with Xie Zhenhua’s words.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11502019

    “There must be much better verification of developed countries’ finance proposals,” Xie Zhenhua, China’s chief climate negotiator, told BBC News.

    Is it possible that the chinese and russians that they do not believe in AGW at all…They have very good scientists, and have had no green or environment movement for the last 30 years.

    The chinese and others would appear to be going along with AGW for poltical and economic advantage, did Xie let something slip in the two earlier articles below, at a non western conference, he may have had his guard down. He was later, asked to clarify his remarks and he said something suitably diplomatic… Perhaps thinking, only the guilty green west believe the CAGW delusion after all, and the Russian and Chinese are preparing for Global Cooling as their solar physicists advice them, and that AGW and the IPCC is just junk;

    Guardian: Climate change: Chinese adviser calls for open mind on causes

    China’s most senior negotiator on climate change says more research needed to establish whether warming is man-made
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/24/china-climate-change-adviser

    “China’s most senior negotiator on climate change said today he was keeping an open mind on whether global warming was man-made or the result of natural cycles. Xie Zhenhua said there was no doubt that warming was taking place, but more and better scientific research was needed to establish the causes.

    Xie’s comments caused consternation at the end of the post-meeting press conference, with his host, the Indian environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, attempting to play down any suggestions of dissent over the science of climate change.”

    Telegraph: China has ‘open mind’ about cause of climate change
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/7067505/China-has-open-mind-about-cause-of-climate-change.html

    China’s most senior climate change official surprised a summit in India when he questioned whether global warming is caused by carbon gas emissions and said Beijing is keeping an “open mind

    “Xie Zhenhua was speaking at a summit between the developing world’s most powerful countries, India, Brazil, South Africa and China, which is now the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the gas believed to be responsible for climate change.
    But Mr Xie, China’s vice-chairman of national development and reforms commission, later said although mainstream scientific opinion blames emissions from industrial development for climate change, China is not convinced.”

    “There are disputes in the scientific community. We have to have an open attitude to the scientific research. There’s an alternative view that climate change is caused by cyclical trends in nature itself. We have to keep an open attitude,” he said.

    Jo Nova has a similar article… (today)

    http://joannenova.com.au/2010/10/is-the-western-climate-establishment-corrupt-part-7-other-climate-establishments-disagree/

    Some interesting links to Chinese, Russian and Indian scientific thoughts on man made global warming… or NOT

  115. Sully says:

    The original China long ago provided us with a saying along the lines of ‘no tree grows to the sky.’

  116. Tom says:

    While I don’t disagree with most of this article, the idea that energy use increases linearly with economic growth is a common fallacy. In the UK, for instance, between 1970 and 2007 economic output more than doubled (US$700,000,000,000 to US$1,800,000,000,000) but energy use is the same to within a few percent. Even the variability over that time in energy use is only about 25% peak to peak (we are currently at around to average over this period).

    Admittedly, I’m not sure how this data set handles imports, so when manufactured goods are taken into account we may just be exporting most of our energy use offshore.

    The strange end date is because that is when the world bank energy use data set ends.

  117. Djozar says:

    When I read this article, I think back to Bruner’s “Stand on Zanszibar (sp?)”. Part of the premise was the zero population growth vs. rights to have as many children as desired. I don’t think it can be done due to too many human, religious and economic issues, but it would be a starting point for real conservation instead of using carbon as a bench mark. There is a movement to reduce but it’s allied with the Gaia group that wants to reduce the population. I would want a voluntary plan to stabilize the population, not reduce it.

    Has anyone ever determined what the optimal population of the Earth for our known resources?

  118. jrwakefield says:

    “So let’s talk about energy and why what is described above signals a crisis–or not.”

    Hence peak oil. Does anyone here really think that oil production can double or triple? No, it will soon be in terminal decline because of those increases in energy demand.

  119. jrwakefield says:

    “Peak oil is a bottle neck on production and distribution bought about by regulation and carpet-baggary rather than actual reserves.”

    No! Peak oil is about flow rates and ERoEI. Both of which are falling.

  120. John Whitman says:

    Tom Fuller,

    Appreciate your post. Thanks.

    There are no more 3 Chinas than there are 3 Americas or 3 Indias or 3 Japans. The number is not 3; it is ‘n’ where ‘n’ is the number of journalists trying to make a living off of manufacturing problems (with or without the explicit/implicit help of supporting professional agenda makers).

    China is not a problem nor India (etc); just like US of A is not a problem. You are stuck in the ‘problem’ mindset. Was it the school of journalism you attended that indoctrinated you to the ‘problem’ mentality? Or was it your undergraduate institution?

    It is not too late to be a productive member of a realistically based benevolent society. : )

    John

  121. Wilson Flood says:

    The analysis smacks of “post hoc ergo propter hoc” ie because China has expanded so will Turkey and India etc. There are deeper national psychological principles in operation here. China is very much aware that it “lost face” in the 15th century when the treasure ships of Admiral Zhe (?) were recalled and China turned in on itself. At that time it was technologically miles ahead of Europe. For centuries it suffered exploitation and humiliation at the hands of European capitalism and these memories really rankle. China should always have been a world power and now is determined to play catch up. Its people are remarkably talented and hard working and the centralised system of government means that things can be achieved quickly. Attitude is all especially to education. Laws are strictly upheld and applied.

    The BP data shows that China trebled its consumption of fossil fuels since 2010 while India’s went up by 50%. India will never compete with China for so many reasons. It has very poor infrastructure which it seems incapable of improving, it has a peculiar climate which depends on the unpredictable monsoon which often causes considerable damage, and it has a caste system which holds millions in povery. An Einstein who is an untouchable has no chance. At the Commonwealth Games earth was being shifted by women with baskets on their head!

    Brazil has enormous social problems and too many live in povery. The rule of law is not universally applied and the country seems on the brink of anarchy all the time. Lack of good education will hold the country back although GDP will rise because of sheer.

    As for Turkey, oh dear. This is a backward country which shows no signs of advancement. Its only hope is to join the EU and that will not happen now for so many reasons. Turkey suffers from a collective depression. It was once a powerful force as the Ottoman Empire and held most of the world’s oil supplies in its hands. World War 1 and Versailles stopped all that and the Turks have never got over it. They just do not have their act together. They have no resources to launch a development programme. The UK is slowly turning into Turkey.

    The only China you will see is China, along with Taiwan, which shows what China could be like. The 19th century was Britain’s, the 20th the USA’s and the 21st will be China’s. The modern world was not designed for a rich China but it will have to learn to live with it.

  122. harrywr2 says:

    “5. If China doubles its energy use (to 200 quads) and 65% of it comes from coal, that will be 130 quadrillion BTUs generated from burning coal, in China, in 2020.”

    China currently consumes 3X the amount of coal the US consumes and pretty close to half of global coal consumption. It’s almost inconceivable that they could push that to 6X.

    “6. China’s coal plants are much dirtier than those used in the developed world.”

    China’s ‘Old’ coal fired plants are much dirtier with efficiency rates around 25%, their new plants have efficiency rates of 40+%, well above the efficiency rates of the average coal fired plant in the US.

  123. Djozar says:

    John Whitman,

    I generally agree with your comments, but I thought that the use of “three China’s” was a reasonable literary device. While Mr. Fuller may have his own agenda, I don’t have an issue with him postulating on possible futures. Possible futures aren’t reality but a prompt for discussion.

  124. DirkH says:

    Neil Craig says:
    October 18, 2010 at 7:07 am

    “One proof that the eco-fascists don’t believe their scare stories is that almost none of them promote nuclear power. Nuclear can certainly produce enough power to satisfy all 9 billion people in a CO2 free manner. If somebody honestly believed CO2 was about to cause a catastrophe they would inevitably support the only practical way of avoiding it.”

    Lovelock does; and he is also one of those who call for a temporary suspension of democracy.

  125. Jean Parisot says:

    Please don’t cross post this on any financial forums, things are a little touchy right now.

  126. John Whitman says:

    Djozar says:
    October 18, 2010 at 10:00 am

    John Whitman,

    I generally agree with your comments, but I thought that the use of “three China’s” was a reasonable literary device. While Mr. Fuller may have his own agenda, I don’t have an issue with him postulating on possible futures. Possible futures aren’t reality but a prompt for discussion.

    —————

    Djozar,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Yes, Tom’s literary license of 3, as you pointed out, is not a fundamental issue.

    My problem [ : ) ] is the imagineering of problems to support a desire by some to establish social actions.

    To quote from Von Mises [ http://mises.org/quotes.aspx ] :

    If one rejects laissez faire on account of mans fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action.

    John

  127. len says:

    Quote … “I personally think that this level of intense development will indeed have an effect on our climate, due not only to CO2, but also deforestation, aquifer depletion and other factors described ably by Roger Pielke Sr. But I don’t know how much and I don’t know what percentages to assign to each.”

    I disagree.

    Although we are way past NOx and SOx in the West and tackling ppb ‘mercury abatement’, the pressure to clean up the cities in China as it develops will become enormous and I think with the technology available will largely be mitigated in a decade.

    As for the effect on climate, nothing. I only see ‘soot’ playing a roll mitigating the ensuing cooling over the next 30 years in terms of snow accumulation and the extra CO2 will marginally mitigate the loss of agricultural areas in the Russian Steppe and Canada’s marginal ‘ag zones’ (The Peace Region and the ‘skeg lands of Ontario and Quebec) due to the cooling.

    As for deforestation and the rest of it, just as seen with population mitigation … the single biggest factor correcting it is wealth. Once the environment becomes an affordable commodity with numerous public activities becoming expectations and the inevitable ‘foundation funded special interests’, the countryside will trend to chaos (go wild) as it has in developed countries. The issue will be if they can preserve regions of habitat for all their fellow organisms during the transition.

    As for water … I’m not sure what happened in China 160 years ago in Tibet and Inner Mongolia. I doubt these resource limitations will come into play outside rationalizing development.

    In short, I think all is good and given the facts, “How is this different from any other day?” (in the development of mankind).

  128. Djozar says:
    October 18, 2010 at 7:55 am

    ….Has anyone ever determined what the optimal population of the Earth for our known resources?

    Yes, a few people did. Here is an example based on the assumption that there are no limits to energy availability and affordability, the reasoning in this case being that the figure of 500 billion people is not a limit but essentially open-ended:

    We know for sure that the world can produce vastly more food than it now does, especially in such low-income countries as India and Bangladesh, even with conventional methods….

    There are a host of already well-proven techniques that could boost
    production immediately, including better storage facilities that would cut the perhaps 15-25 percent loss to pests and rot every year; improved production devices such as vacuums that suck up bugs instead of killing them with pesticides; and the host of individually-small innovations that one can read about every month in farm magazines. Widespread adoption adds up to steady improvement, and yields seem to be accelerating rather than tapering off….

    In the brief time since the first edition [The Ultimate Resource, by Julian Simon; 1983], the capacity of food-factory production has expanded to a degree almost beyond belief. On a space of perhaps 36 square meters – that is, a “plot” six meters or 18 feet on each side – with the use of artificial light, enough food can be raised to supply the calories for a single person, day in and day out. (A less conservative estimate is that a plot ten feet square will suffice. That is, an average bedroom in an ordinary U.S. house, 20 feet by 20 feet, would contain enough area to feed a family of four.)….

    In DeKalb, Illinois, Noel Davis’s PhytoFarm produces food – mainly lettuce and other garden vegetables – in a factory measuring 200 feet by 250 feet – 50,000 square feet, one acre, 0.4 hectares, 1/640 of a square mile – at a rate of a ton of food per day, enough to completely feed 500 or 1000 people….
    But let’s go even further. With only a minor boost from artificial light – perhaps by a quarter of the total energy used by the plants – greenhouse tomato production in New Jersey is sufficiently profitable that only about a fiftieth of an acre is sufficient to feed a person fully. This is about a tenth as
    efficient as PhytoFarm, but still would allow food for the entire U.S. population to be produced on about a hundredth of present arable land, which is itself only a fraction of total U.S. land area….

    At the current efficiency of PhytoFarm, the entire present population of the world can be supplied from a square area about 140 miles on a side – about the area of Massachusetts and Vermont combined, and less than a tenth of Texas. This represents only about a thousandth as much land as is needed for agriculture at present (give or take a factor of four; for illustrative
    purposes greater exactitude is unnecessary). And if for some reason that seems like too much space, you can immediately cut the land space by a factor of ten: just build food factories ten stories high, which should present no more problems that a ten-story office building….

    PhytyoFarm techniques could feed a hundred times the world’s present population – say 500 billion people – with factory buildings a hundred stories high, on one percent of present farmland. To put it differently, if you raise your bed to triple bunk-bed height, you can grow enough food on the two levels between the floor and your bed to supply your nutritional needs….
    ________________
    The Ultimate Resource II, Chapter 6, What Are The Limits on Food Production?

    Of course, others, e. g.: Paul Ehrlich or Thomas Fuller, strongly feel that we have reached the limits of growth or are very close to them, given that according to them in all likelihood the limits of growth cannot be breached or exceeded through human ingenuity. That is even though experience has shown such fears to be grossly wrong.

    Fear and denial are powerful obstacles to the full exploitation of human potential, and, for the media, stories based on fear, catastrophes and any calamities sell. For the media, bad news are good news and constitute profitable vehicles for selling advertising .

  129. Djozar says:

    John,

    Love the quote!

  130. Curiousgeorge says:

    Whatever happened to the attitude that Bosephus (Hank Williams Jr. ) sang about? Country folk can survive. Y’all city slickers just don’t have a clue, thinkin’ all y’all need to do is buy some ‘lectric damn car or “reduce the size of your feet”, when all you need is the wife, dogs, kids, guns and some land you can call your own. Flyover country is more about ‘country’ than flyover.

  131. John Whitman says:

    Walter Schneider says:
    October 18, 2010 at 11:40 am

    ——————–

    Walter Schneider,

    I appreciated your wonderful comment.

    You mentioned Julian Simon’s work which I respect and agree with.

    A week ago I just finished Indur Goklany’s great book, ‘The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet’

    It is a comprehensive work. Extremely solid with data and charts. It updates everything, magnificently.

    John

  132. Djozar says:

    Thanks Walter; guess I’m going to have to read the book. I wouldn’t have guessed 500 billion!

  133. thomaswfuller says:

    It’s kind of funny to me–I really like everything Indur Goklany has written, and am a big fan of Julian Simon.

    As I’ve written above, I believe these problems are eminently solveable, and I am actually an optimist about our future. And I intend to stick around and watch as much of it as I can.

    Is it just because I don’t think coal is the proper fuel for the future that you guys are yellin’ at me?

  134. John Whitman says:

    thomaswfuller says:
    October 18, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    It’s kind of funny to me–I really like everything Indur Goklany has written, and am a big fan of Julian Simon.

    As I’ve written above, I believe these problems are eminently solveable, and I am actually an optimist about our future. And I intend to stick around and watch as much of it as I can.

    Is it just because I don’t think coal is the proper fuel for the future that you guys are yellin’ at me?

    ————-

    thomaswfuller,

    Cheer up. I actually respect you for creating a post that allows an opportunity for me to say things that would perhaps otherwise not come out in so focused and energetic form. Thank you sincerely. I could not have created easily (or at all) the stimulation that you did.

    It is just that, to me, some of your posts come across as vestiges of arguments from AGW-by-CO2 supporters retreating and defending their retreat with moderation and compromise flung back over their shoulders. Maybe my interpretation of some of your posts is wrong? It is possible.

    John

  135. R. de Haan says:

    I had to think of the Human Cube from Burt Rutan that fits the volume of 6.8 billion people. The size is 1700 x 1700 x 1700 feet
    He also calculated a Biomass Box that contains the entire bio sphere of the planet
    Biomass box: 450 miles by 450 miles 1700-ft tall

    To supply the resources for 3 China’s I can only say that it will be a blessing for the economy. Regard it as an opportunity and a security instead of a threat.
    http://rps3.com/Files/AGW/EngrCritique.AGW-Science.v4.pdf

    We only have to re establish the connection because the warmist are holding us down (lol).
    http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2010/10/re-establish-connection.html

  136. thomaswfuller says:
    October 18, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    It’s kind of funny to me–I really like everything Indur Goklany has written, and am a big fan of Julian Simon.

    However, Julian Simon’s message is not coming across in what you write. What comes across is Malthusian thinking, the sort of thinking that Julian Simon castigated all along.

    As I’ve written above, I believe these problems are eminently solveable, and I am actually an optimist about our future. And I intend to stick around and watch as much of it as I can.

    I am glad you explain that the worries you expressed in your piece are in reality declarations of optimism.

    Is it just because I don’t think coal is the proper fuel for the future that you guys are yellin’ at me?

    In reading all of the comments in this discussion thread, it is not possible to discern anyone yelling at you.

    Still, there are some contradictions between the explanation you provide now and what you said in your main posting. Moreover, there are contradictions between some of your statements in your main posting and its conclusion, such as this:

    I do not know what the sensitivity of the atmosphere is to a doubling of concentrations of CO2 is, and despite pronouncements from partisans on either side of that argument, I don’t think anybody else knows, either.

    I do not know what cycles of earth, moon, sun and stars will combine to push or pull global temperatures one way or another, and despite pronouncements from partisans on either side, I don’t think anybody else knows, either….

    Commenters to my recent pieces asked why I characterise our situation as an energy crisis. I have tried to provide an answer here. I’m happy to discuss this with any and all. Because I think this is a conversation we can have without referring to magical numbers and thinking, pixie dust or moonbeams.

    I personally think that this level of intense development will indeed have an effect on our climate, due not only to CO2, but also deforestation, aquifer depletion and other factors described ably by Roger Pielke Sr. But I don’t know how much and I don’t know what percentages to assign to each.

    So let’s talk about energy and why what is described above signals a crisis–or not.

    “magical numbers and thinking, pixie dust or moonbeams”? Yet, is that not exactly what you offer? Moreover, no one but you mentioned “magical numbers,” etc.

    You state that you “do not know what the sensitivity of the atmosphere is to a doubling of concentrations of CO2 is,” and that you do not accept arguments and figures from the other side in the discussion that assert the ostensible energy crisis that you conjure is not a problem. Yet, you demand that we engage in a discussion of an issue about which you declare you don’t know enough and about which, as you declare as well, you disbelieve any arguments that counter your worries.

    A similar conflict exists between what you wish for and what others state about cosmic or solar influences on our climate, but if that is so, why discuss anything? Don’t you have your mind already made up and declared openly that no facts will confuse you?

    I have followed the discussions on this blog for more than a year now. Others have done so for considerably longer intervals. I am convinced that Julian Simon is right, and that Malthusian thinking is wrong. I am not a fan of his, but may become one, once I have spent more time following his reasoning and research. You are a fan of Julian Simon but appear to ignore what he wrote, mainly and especially with respect to there being no limits to energy sources and to the invention of new ones we have never yet thought about.

    Julian Simon stated that the vast majority of the issues we now worry about came into existence within the last hundred years or so and that we have billions of years ahead of us to find solutions to problem that have emerged during the last hundred years, aside from the fact that many of the problems that did emerge were actually solved already (e. g.: no more London Smog and vastly cleaner air in North America than we had become accustomed to not quite a century ago).

    Most importantly, Julian Simon illustrates time and again that real problems that had come about were solved through market forces and human ingenuity, and that the vast majority of the problems that we are presently worrying about are imaginary, manufactured or conjured by interest groups, politicians and the media. You seem to follow their tracks.

    I thought that this blog was about debunking climate hype and hysteria, not about pouring oil or coal on the fire, so to speak.

    Now, to answer your concern about whether what you had “described above signals a crisis–or not,” it doesn’t, for many of the reasons Julian Simon explained in his writings, and for many more of the reasons that many others in many discussion on this blog presented.

    The problem is not whether there is an energy crisis or not. The problem is with wrong energy politics and wrong belief systems.

    Aside from that, proven coal reserves in Alberta, Canada (where I live), will last for about 1,500 years at the current rate of mining, of which production a substantial portion is being shipped to China and Japan. The CO2 that is being produced by burning that coal will be good for helping agricultural productivity and all plant life on Earth. I recall that about 25 percent of the increase in agricultural productivity in China alone during the past 30 years or so is entirely due to increased levels of atmospheric CO2. I don’t see that as a crisis worth discussing. It is a blessing. As of now you have not explained why that should not be so?

  137. wesley bruce says:

    Good work Thomas. Excellent post. I’m optimistic that its not all bad news. Your energy and population numbers are in my opinion quite correct. While greenhouse is less of a problem than the Warmist’s make out we still have a long term energy problem. However I am trained in renewables and solar. While the current batch of technologies pushed by the IPCC and most greens are not able to meet the huge energy demands or provide non- intermittent base load; those of us who are both trained in the field yet sceptical of the current panic know of the technologies that could meet demands. There panic has led to superficial solutions rather than real integrated solution. Bureaucracy, subsidies and quick fixes have failed. Real solutions are often too heard to rush.
    Several solutions will dominate.
    Low efficiency but cheap solar power integrated into direct energy use such as tropical and desert cooling is one example. Using thermal mass of the structure as the storage from day to night. Solar hot water with bigger storage tanks.
    Public places and buildings must be shaded from summers sun in the tropics and desert cities. This is being done cheaply now. These shade sources can be solar. So there’s plenty of space for solar where it works best.
    Much of the celluloseic ethanol enzyme work will go open source very quickly after the greenhouse scare ends. Likewise the fall of subsidised big projects will result in smaller scale biofuels plants are being worked on by some. These will allow farm gate biofuel production. Fermentation and distillation does not destroy the protein in the feed stock so we can have food and fuel from the same crop.
    Bio-Methane from farm waste and sewerage is the cheapest biofuel. Most new sewerage systems being built are anaerobic systems now not the aerobic system of the 20Th century. New CO2 filter system for CCS will be available cheaply to scrub CO2, the major impurity from bio-methane, making methane that is indistinguishable from natural gas.
    Grid storage has been ignored. Grid storage required different pricing than cap and trade and the latter blocks the former. When it was first mooted pumped water to hight, compressed air down a hole and warehouses with big batteries wired up in them were viable and profitable. When superconductors came along the focus shifted to them. When superconductors failed to yield storage the powers that be seem to have shifted the problem into the too hard basket. This, to me, is the greatest proof that the IPCC and its sister organisations were not viable or seeking a real solution. To the storage list we now have Solar thermal with underground heat storage, bulk Hydrogen storage is 80%, efficient, and Ice based air-conditioning (of peak power makes ice). Some country will eventually.
    Subsidised wind power will die with the IPCC but not the expertise. Wind farms with integral storage using compressed air or fly wheels are proposed. In both cases there is no electricity generated in the windmill. The current batch of people are taking the bigger is better line when in reality are ignoring and thus blocking the real wind systems. The wild mills may shrink to a more mass producible size.
    Hydrogen is 80% efficient in production and new carbon based hydrides have been developed. Thus this technology is emerging as a solution particularly if the hydrogen car is also a light hybrid. The chicken/egg problem of cars and fuelling points can be solved at competitive prices with home hydrogen production.
    There are several fusion technologies like Cold fusion, Focus Fusion, Muon fusion, and the perplexing Blacklight Power claims. All have been ignored by the mainstream as the world hits true energy limits we will see some country break from the chains and test them again.
    Efficiency gains will remain available and new technology will emerge.

    The current political battles, subsidised half solutions and red tape will be erased by the fall of the climate scammers and their schemes. Most of the technologies needed are in development. Some are competitive with coal if properly implemented. The catch is with governments trying to pick winners and overrule the market we are seeing far less progress and needed rationalisation in the energy sector than we are seeing in say communications. The real irony is that when the global warming scare ends only then will the energy the warmists demand emerge.

  138. Pascvaks says:

    “The choices we make about energy, the environment and climate will be limited by The Three Chinas.”

    I’d like to also add:

    I assure any who might doubt the obvious, that the delema of the 21st Century is not about climate anything, it is about integrating China, India, and Brazil into the new world order; perhaps maybe even Europe will ‘Unite’ in this new century;-). Getting all the Super Powers to cooperate on meaningful ‘anything’ is not going to be easy. CO2 reduction, and anything else in this vein, must be a common-sense-high-tech-non-issue-self-interest-national program in each of these giants–or it won’t happen. Now, how that is going to happen is going to be a problem in today’s world. The demise of the UN-level “Global” Pac-man attempt at establishing a New World Order (a’la Marx and George Sornose) via Carbon Credits etc., puts the ball(s) back in the hands of the actual players in this football game. It’s a watch and wait game. Wait and see.

  139. TomVonk says:

    Is it just because I don’t think coal is the proper fuel for the future that you guys are yellin’ at me?

    I do not think that anybody was yelling at you Mr Fuller.
    As for me , I expressed an unbounded surprise at the observation that you can write about energy and economy over 3 pages and not to use the word price once .

    You know why the “energy crisis” you write about is fabricated , made up , a hallucination ?
    And it is not necessary to quote Julian Simon .

    Because you implicitely suppose that demand can sustainably outpace supply .
    IT-CAN-NOT !
    As soon as the demand begins to outpace supply , the prices begin to increase .
    And if it lasts , the prices explode . Like the traders say – “Sky is the limit” .
    And what happens when prices increase ?
    Well demand decreases again and adjusts to supply but generally at a higher level .
    Of course it also works the other way round when supply is abundant and the demand low .

    The existence of this well known self correcting mechanism that some call free market shows that naive extrapolations where people draw straight lines going to infinity are useless word games with no relation to reality .
    On top like someone already mentionned , but this is just a detail , the assumption that specific energy consumption (Energy/GDP) is a constant is horribly wrong .

  140. R. de Haan says:

    Embrace coal Mr Fuller, embrace oil and natural gas, embrace humanity and enjoy the wonderful civilization we are building, enjoy our beautiful planet and reject the tied ass scare stories from those who hate human kind and who see us rather that than alive.

  141. Tim Clark says:

    10. Two billion people may join the middle class by 2030.

    That source, aside from trying to sell you a listing of stocks, excludes erosion of middle class in developed countries, uses an arbitrary definition of middle class which is simplistic, chooses a level taxation rate, does not address energy needs for the growth expected, and assumes stable, business-friendly governments.

    Again, Tom, your model of antiquated, revisionist idealism does not describe what’s happening in the real world. Better get off the weed.

  142. regeya says:

    What’s that about Obama blocking nuclear power?

    http://articles.cnn.com/2010-02-16/politics/obama.nuclear.power_1_nuclear-waste-nuclear-power-tons-of-radioactive-waste?_s=PM:POLITICS

    What’s that about Obama blocking shale oil?

    http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2009/0102/p08s01-comv.html

    I’m not a big fan of the Obama administration myself, but let’s keep the discussion in reality, shall we?

    While we’re on the subject of the future of energy, how about Bill Gates’ nuclear initiative? This could have major implications for my home region, as there’s a great deal of “waste” sitting around here that stands to become a valuable commodity.

    http://articles.cnn.com/2010-02-17/tech/bill.gates.nuclear_1_nuclear-reactors-nuclear-power-plant-nuclear-energy?_s=PM:TECH

  143. Steve says:

    “PhytyoFarm techniques could feed a hundred times the world’s present population – say 500 billion people – with factory buildings a hundred stories high, on one percent of present farmland. To put it differently, if you raise your bed to triple bunk-bed height, you can grow enough food on the two levels between the floor and your bed to supply your nutritional needs….
    ________________
    The Ultimate Resource II, Chapter 6, What Are The Limits on Food Production?”

    Julian Simon was a great mind, but he didn’t know jack about agriculture. In The Ultimate Resource 2 he completely blows over the fact that phosphorus supplies are already known to be limited (Chapter 2: http://www.juliansimon.com/writings/Ultimate_Resource/TCHAQ02A.txt). The quote in Ch. 2 states that phosphorus is one of the “notable exceptions” to substitutability. Either Simon didn’t understand the importance of that, or he chose to ignore it. Peak phosphorus is a known problem that presents an upper limit on agricultural production (http://phosphorusfutures.net/peak-phosphorus).

    He also ignores the space requirements for fresh water and fertilizing nutrients in his simple “triple bunk-bed height” statement. I don’t know if this is a magicians trick, or if Simon assumes “Of course the reader will know that all the water and nutrients required will be supplied from a separate, much larger space. And no, I’m not going to calculate the size of that space.”

    Speaking of water, Simon glosses over peak water too, although I’ll admit that the “ingenuity” avenue is much more open for this resource. How much capital is needed to construct the desalinization plants required for a population increase of 100 billion people? Simon won’t tell you, but he’s confident it will get done!

    I have the same problem with Julian Simon that I do with Milton Friedman. They are beautiful minds full of optimism, but naive as a 3 year old in the way solutions to problems pan out in reality. It would be wonderful if throwing enough minds (Simon’s “ultimate resource”) at an oncoming agricultural crisis resulted in good ‘ole capitalist ingenuity first. But history shows that the immediate ingenuity tends to be in the military aspect. We will invent better weapons to hold on to our resources long before we invent better ways of sharing what is available.

  144. azcIII says:

    Dave says:
    October 17, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Hi Dave,
    Sorry it took me a while to get back to you, and thank you for your thoughts. The environmental degradation of China is appalling. http://www.chinahush.com/2009/10/21/amazing-pictures-pollution-in-china/ If you look at the pop distribution, the rivers they are poisoning are the lifeblood of the majority of the population. Their disease rates are skyrocketing. What effect these toxins have on DNA and future fertility…

    As for their age pyramid, there are a lot of folks reaching the end of their childbearing years. They also have an imbalance in their male:female ratio, so much so that the CCP banned selective abortion of female fetuses a few years ago and instituted incentives for having and keeping girls. If a young man cannot find a wife, there are few choices short of not marrying (not reproducing) or importing marriageable women. This also could destabilize China’s social order in that there are millions of young men with no wives.

    My idle theory of China’s eventual population crash is not based solely on statistics, but also on thousands of years of history and human nature. I think China has a lot more problems than anyone outside the CCP knows. Law of Unintended Consequences. Also keep in mind that, although they have liberalized economically in recent years, China is still a closed Communist society and information from them should be viewed as likely CCP propaganda.

    When examining population, regional or global, you must factor in that the world and human societies are not static; they are dynamic. The likelihood of war, new diseases, starvation, etc. do figure prominently. Conditions today can change in an instant and change everything. When in history has any nation seen perpetual population growth? If we don’t kill each other off, nature will find a way. SARS, avian flu and H1N1 are just a warning shot. Eventually, we will see another 1918 Spanish flu, the war of wars, widespread crop failures, a cosmic catastrophe (asteroid, solar events, magnetic reversals, etc) that eradicates entire hemispheres or worse. No one can predict the future, but viewing it as static is dangerously naive. Surprises are in store, always.

    Cheers!

  145. Rightatthebottom says:

    As the world’s population becomes wealthier, it will be able to afford things previously unaffordable. Things such as solar power, and the big one, fusion.

    Once fusion power is realised, the issue of coal power will fade away.

    The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.

  146. Paul Birch says:

    Steve says:
    October 19, 2010 at 1:35 pm
    “Julian Simon was a great mind, but he didn’t know jack about agriculture. In The Ultimate Resource 2 he completely blows over the fact that phosphorus supplies are already known to be limited”

    Probably because they’re not. There is ~1e20 kg P in the Earth’s crust alone (~1000ppm). It is readily extractable even from bulk soil or seawater, and can easily be recovered from human, animal and plant waste (the best technique is probably wet oxidation, at elevated temperatures and pressures, which once started is self-maintaining, requires no external energy input and produces an effluent that is completely sterile and, with the addition of ammonia/nitric acid, ideal as the basis of a plant nutrient solution). We can never run out of phosphorus, because unless we burn it up in some nuclear process every atom we use is always available for reuse; and even then we could always make more of it from aluminium, say, by Al(alpha)->P.

    The ignorance of Malthusians concerning already known techniques is astounding.

  147. Steve says:

    “Probably because they’re not. There is ~1e20 kg P in the Earth’s crust alone (~1000ppm).”

    Right, 1,000 ppm estimated as the general composition of the Earth’s crust. So to get 1 kg of nice 0-0-10 NPK fertilizer, we would have to mine how many kg of the Earth’s crust? Answer = 100 kg. Assuming that the 1,000 ppm figure is a statement about a homogenous composition of Earth’s crust. Does it include the phosphate rock mines that are already estimated to be fully depleted long before the human population reaches even 100 billion (1/5 of Simon’s complete guess)?

    “It is readily extractable even from bulk soil or seawater.”

    Cite please regarding the “readily” portion of this comment. If it is so readily extractable, surely a fertilizer supply company is already using this technique.

    “and can easily be recovered from human, animal and plant waste”

    Again, cite please regarding the “easily”. And no, dropping manure on the crops does not count as “recovered phosphorus”.

    “The ignorance of Malthusians concerning already known techniques is astounding.”

    Ignorant clichés don’t help your argument. What about my comment made you think that I’m a Malthusian, and how is it that you are so easily astounded? Are you saying that someone has to be a Malthusian to criticize Julian Simon? I’m assuming that you were unable to rustle up any links to support your comment because you were too busy pulling your jaw up off the floor, being as astounded as you were.

  148. Paul Birch says:

    Steve says:
    October 20, 2010 at 7:40 am
    “Right, 1,000 ppm estimated as the general composition of the Earth’s crust. So to get 1 kg of nice 0-0-10 NPK fertilizer, we would have to mine how many kg of the Earth’s crust? Answer = 100 kg. Assuming that the 1,000 ppm figure is a statement about a homogenous composition of Earth’s crust. ”

    Actually, answer = 4kg for the zero phosphorus mix specified (read what you wrote). But of course the real answer is that we would only “have” to mine 100kg of crust to get 100g of phosphorus if we needed ~1e20 kg of it. For any lesser amount we have the option of mining more concentrated deposits. For the scenario being discussed the total amount of phosphorus required is only ~1e12 kg; even the silly peak phosphorus theory claims reserves of three times that figure.

    “… human population reaches even 100 billion (1/5 of Simon’s complete guess)?”

    Not a “guess”, in the sense of a prediction, merely a convenient example for explanatory purposes. With known technology the Earth could support at least a hundred times higher population than this. How high the terrestrial population actually goes will depend on personal choices driving a trade off between centrality and dispersion (like the choice between city centre, suburbs or country, or Hong Kong and Boulder), and that is impossible to predict with any confidence at this time. Though it will almost certainly be only a tiny fraction of the solar system and interstellar populations.

    “Cite please regarding the “readily” portion of this comment. If it is so readily extractable, surely a fertilizer supply company is already using this technique.”

    Seaweed has been harvested for fertiliser for centuries, concentrating various nutrients (including phosphorus) from seawater. Fish also contribute considerable quantities of phosphorus as human and animal foodstocks (~0.2kg P/person/yr, enough to reach the required total in ~10 yr). The major fertiliser companies do not currently rely on such essentially unlimited background sources for the obvious reason that there are huge reserves of more concentrated ores, which can be extracted even more cheaply.

    ““and can easily be recovered from human, animal and plant waste”
    Again, cite please regarding the “easily”. And no, dropping manure on the crops does not count as “recovered phosphorus”. ”

    In fact, dropping manure on crops is recovering and recycling phosphorus. However, I had already addressed that point in the rest of the sentence you quoted from: “the best technique is probably wet oxidation, at elevated temperatures and pressures, which once started is self-maintaining, requires no external energy input and produces an effluent that is completely sterile and, with the addition of ammonia/nitric acid, ideal as the basis of a plant nutrient solution”. It is described in some detail in NASA SP-428 (along with other options such as dry oxidation). Biological methods (composting, aerobic and anaerobic decomposition) are also available, and already in common use for waste treatment.

    “What about my comment made you think that I’m a Malthusian”

    Possibly the recrudescent Malthusian sophistries you and Tom Fuller come up with. Limits to Growth nonsense like peak phosphorus.

  149. Steve says:

    Paul Birch says:
    “Actually, answer = 4kg for the zero phosphorus mix specified (read what you wrote). But of course the real answer is that we would only “have” to mine 100kg of crust to get 100g of phosphorus if we needed ~1e20 kg of it. For any lesser amount we have the option of mining more concentrated deposits. For the scenario being discussed the total amount of phosphorus required is only ~1e12 kg; even the silly peak phosphorus theory claims reserves of three times that figure.”

    Well I did make a typo and a conversion error, but your 4 kg answer is complete nonsense – care to show your math? I forgot to take into account that 10% P of NPK corresponds to the phosphate content, so you need a conversion factor of 1.2 to get pure phosphorus. At 1,000 ppm, if I need 1 kg of 0-10-0 NPK fertilizer the answer is: (1 x 10% / 1.2) / (1,000/1,000,000) = 83.3 kg of crust to get 1 kg of 0-10-0 fertilizer.

    And yes, I understand that more concentrated sources reduces the amount of crust that needs to be mined. They are called phosphate rock mines – you know, what peak phosphorus is about in the first place? Which is why I asked if your 1,000 ppm figure includes those phosphate rock sources that we are already depleting (mines being considered part of the Earth’s crust). Because once those are gone, the amount of crust mined elsewhere will require much more than 83.3 kg per 1 kg of 0-10-0 fertilizer. And why didn’t you answer my question, by the way? Surely you could have fit a simple “yes/no” somewhere into your five paragraph essay.

    And what do you mean by “for the scenario being discussed, the total amount of phosphorus is only ~~1e12 kg?” What scenario, and where is your math? Try to realize that the people reading your comments over the internet cannot also read your mind.

    “Not a “guess”, in the sense of a prediction, merely a convenient example for explanatory purposes.”

    A “convenient example for explanatory purposes” with absolutely no calculations to back it up is called a “guess” in polite circles. Elsewhere it may be referred to as bu11$hit.

    “Seaweed has been harvested for fertiliser for centuries, concentrating various nutrients (including phosphorus) from seawater. Fish also contribute considerable quantities of phosphorus as human and animal foodstocks (~0.2kg P/person/yr, enough to reach the required total in ~10 yr). The major fertiliser companies do not currently rely on such essentially unlimited background sources…In fact, dropping manure on crops is recovering and recycling phosphorus… Biological methods (composting, aerobic and anaerobic decomposition) are also available, and already in common use for waste treatment.”

    We know that LIFE extracts phosphorus from all of these sources. That’s a given. Do you really think that the United States imports phosphorus from Morocco but it has a massive pile of unused, cheap detritus that it could be using instead? Peak phosphorus already accounts for the bulk of detritus as a source, and that detritus source already became unable to meet supply. Hence the phosphate rock mining. Which is expected to peak in a few decades.

    “Possibly the recrudescent Malthusian sophistries you and Tom Fuller come up with. Limits to Growth nonsense like peak phosphorus.”

    Even Julian Simon’s philosophy states that peaks exist! Realizing that a peak is on the horizon is not Malthusian. Simon’s optimistic philosophy trusts that between the hordes of the ignorant individuals who cannot solve the oncoming problem, either because they can’t see it, they don’t want to see it or they don’t have the knowledge to overcome it, there will always be enough shining minds who see the problem and solve it before it becomes a Malthusian catastrophe. Ignoring the approach of a peak that requires a profitable solution doesn’t make you a smart libertarian capitalist, it makes you an idiot.

    Pointing out that a peak with a need for a solution is on the horizon is exactly what Julian Simon hopes for. You can’t solve a problem without seeing it first. If I were a Malthusian I would say “There is no solution, the future is doomed!”, which I’m not. I am saying that the “solution” is likely to be military before the capitalist ingenuity that Simon preaches saves the day. Since this results in deaths, technically it does make the peak a limit to growth. Simon completely ignores energy requirements to overcome peaks and the psychological reaction to them. At some point, growth will be limited because people will decide it is simply much easier to have fewer children. As the average number offspring falls to two, growth slows and eventually stops. And what is it that happens as nations become more developed?

    Meeting people like you just confirms my personal philosophy. You throw around fantastic solutions that no one happens to be working on (like we can always smash atoms and convert aluminum to phosphorus!). There’s a genre for that – it’s called science fiction. I recommend you read a story alleged to a man named Aesop: http://www.tititudorancea.com/z/aesops_fables_astronomer.htm

  150. Paul Birch says:

    Steve says:
    October 21, 2010 at 6:08 pm
    “Paul Birch says: “Actually, answer = 4kg for the zero phosphorus mix specified (read what you wrote). But of course the real answer is that we would only “have” to mine 100kg of crust to get 100g of phosphorus if we needed ~1e20 kg of it. For any lesser amount we have the option of mining more concentrated deposits. For the scenario being discussed the total amount of phosphorus required is only ~1e12 kg; even the silly peak phosphorus theory claims reserves of three times that figure.”

    Well I did make a typo and a conversion error, but your 4 kg answer is complete nonsense – care to show your math? ”

    10% potassium (K) at 2.5% crustal abundance w/w requires 10%/2.5% kg/kg = 4. Or a bit less if you go by K2O.

    “And yes, I understand that more concentrated sources reduces the amount of crust that needs to be mined. They are called phosphate rock mines”

    No, those are only some of the most concentrated sources. There are much larger amounts in somewhat less concentrated deposits (for example ~40 GT in peat, at ~1%, which is a ten-fold concentration factor over the crustal average). You might look up Lasky’s Law, particularly in its generalised or extended form.

    “Which is why I asked if your 1,000 ppm figure includes those phosphate rock sources that we are already depleting (mines being considered part of the Earth’s crust). Because once those are gone, the amount of crust mined elsewhere will require much more than 83.3 kg per 1 kg of 0-10-0 fertilizer.”

    It’s irrelevant. 3e9kg versus 1e20kg. Even if the extracted phosphorus were lost to the Earth – which of course it isn’t – it would amount to less than a billionth of the total. The 1000 ppm crustal average would be reduced to 999.999 9997 ppm. The difference is negligible.

    “And what do you mean by “for the scenario being discussed, the total amount of phosphorus is only ~~1e12 kg?” What scenario, and where is your math? ”

    The Julian Simon scenario you were attacking; 500 billion people supported by phytoculture.. Allowing a conservative 2kg P/person that’s 1e12kg. There’s ~0.6-1.0kg P in the human body, the fast-breeding cells of phytoculture require an additional biomass considerably less than that of the animal it is feeding, and the wet oxidative recyling of waste to nutrient would take rather less than a day, so the 2kg inventory assumed is more than adequate.

    “A “convenient example for explanatory purposes” with absolutely no calculations to back it up is called a “guess” in polite circles. ”

    No, it’s an expository example. An existence proof. And there are calculations aplenty throughout Simon’s work, and the extensive references he cites therein.

    “Do you really think that the United States imports phosphorus from Morocco but it has a massive pile of unused, cheap detritus that it could be using instead?”

    Of course it has. Equivalent to several hundred thousand tonnes of phosphorus a year. But mined and imported phosphorus is so cheap that it is not currently considered worth the capital investment needed to recycle it.

    “Even Julian Simon’s philosophy states that peaks exist!”

    No, it doesn’t. It states that they are economic nonsense. You cannot equate the economic good with the rate of physical extraction. In a free market the latter will be whatever maximises the economic efficiency overall. It might rise and fall, displaying an apparent “peak”, but if so it will be for economic and political reasons, not physical ones.

    “Simon’s optimistic philosophy trusts that between the hordes of the ignorant individuals who cannot solve the oncoming problem, either because they can’t see it, they don’t want to see it or they don’t have the knowledge to overcome it, there will always be enough shining minds who see the problem and solve it before it becomes a Malthusian catastrophe.”

    There is no need to “solve” these non-problems, because numerous technological solutions are already known, and more solutions froth up continuously. It is Malthusians like you who worry about these things, and promote alarm and despondancy, because you don’t understand economics and are ignorant of the huge and ever-expanding range of options we already have in reserve, already sufficient for many, many, many orders of magnitude increase in human consumption. The only major problems are political – the propensity of politicians to wreck the economy for the sake of their socialist ideologies. Unfortunately, they can all to easily create shortages where none exist (and that’s about all they can create). You may deny it, but it is plain to see that your underlying world view is an essentially Malthusian one. Remember, Malthus had “solutions” too, and they too involved the use of force to keep the immiserated peasants under control, or war to trim their numbers.

  151. Paul Birch says:

    Sorry, that should have been 3e12kg versus 1e20kg, 30 billionths, and 999.999 997 ppm.

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